Veganism, vegetarianism, and flexitarianism have become mainstream. The last decade has seen an upward trend of people turning away from meat and dairy products to reduce their impact on the environment, but as the cost of living crisis starting to bite thousands more people are turning away from meat products to save money – up to a third according to research from Oxford University.
As inflation soared in May, Britons spent 7.8 per cent less on chicken, beef, pork and fish last month compared to 2021, with people choosing less expensive vegetarian options to reduce their outgoings, according to data from Nielsen. This shift is dramatic, but a continuation of a trend that has seen British shoppers increasingly embrace more sustainable diets, with sales meat-free and dairy-free products booming in recent years.
Every major UK supermarket now sells its own range of vegan products, and almost every major food producer has started to offer vegan alternatives of its products from Heinz’s vegan mayonnaise to Pizza Express’ vegan pizzas. And on the high street, restaurants from McDonalds to KFC to Papa Johns all offer meat-free or vegan alternatives to the burgers, wings, and pizzas that have made them household names.
Companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have made headlines around the world with their plant-based substitutes for meat products, which taste and have a “mouth-feel” just like the meat products they imitate. However, it is not just the taste that people want to replicate, but the look as well with companies like Exberry providing vegan food colourings that can help transform these processed soy, pea, lentil, mushroom, and wheat products into foods that look more like the meats and cheeses people are trying to recreate.
As these meat alternatives improve and economies of scale continue bring the prices down, the trend of people choosing to consume less meat and dairy or avoiding eating such products completely is only expected to accelerate. Before the cost of living crisis significantly pushed up the price of meat and dairy products, eating a flexitarian diet with reduced meat consumption could save people 14 per cent on their bills and avoiding eat and diary completely could save people a third. Now, the savings are estimated to be even greater. And if plant-based alternatives to meat mean that people can buy their favourite foods like burgers or pizzas for less money and with a reduced impact on the environment, then we are likely to see more and more people start to make those choices.
A record 629,000 people took part in Veganuary this year in the UK, almost one per cent of the entire UK population and up over 120,000 on 2021. If meat and dairy prices continue to rise over the next four months and people learn to cook more vegetarian and vegan meals, whether they publicise it or not you can be certain that the number of people eating a plat-based diet in January 2023 will be significantly higher.