Behind the headlines of Meat-free

As the media intensifies coverage on the growth of diets featuring less meat which has given rise to the term flexitarian, AHDB Pork has published its analysis of the meat category.

Although 40% of evening meals contain no meat or meat substitute, AHDB Pork said it was important to note that 91% of GB households still bought fresh or frozen meat in the past year, according to Kantar Worldpanel. Although more people are buying into a meat-free or substitute diets, actually only 0.2% of buyers left the meat, fish and poultry category this year, showing that the majority of these consumers are purchasing both meat and meat-free products.

28% of UK consumers consciously reduced or limited the amount of meat or poultry in their diets in the six months to March 2017, according to Mintel. Health is the primary reason for consumers wanting to reduce their meat intake, following a multitude of studies assessing the health implications of excessive meat consumption.

Despite these concerns, many still believe that meat provides the essential nutritional benefits needed in our everyday diets. According to the AHDB/YouGov tracker, 20% of consumers still see beef as being ‘good for you’, with pork and lamb just behind at 17%. Over 40% also see beef, lamb and pork as a ‘good source of protein’.  Additionally, 36% of consumers are more likely to choose meat because it is more natural and unprocessed than meat-free alternatives, according to Kantar Worldpanel.

As the amount of consumers reducing meat in their diets increases, some supermarkets and food service businesses have increased their meat-free offerings. Nonetheless, meat substitutes are still an incredibly small player on the plates of our evening meals; featuring in less than 0.1% of occasions. Meat is still the favourite, with chicken topping the list at 19% and pork and beef following closely behind.


Mintel shows that 50% of adults think that meat substitutes lack flavour and only a minority associate meat-free foods with versatility. This compares with 46% of people who see beef as versatile and 60% for chicken. According to the AHDB/Tracker, some 55% perceive beef and poultry as ‘tasty’, while over 40% stated the same about pork and lamb. This is where meat has the edge over its substitutes.

Overall, while the threat from the meat free sector is currently quite small, it should not be under-estimated. The meat industry needs to make more of its strengths, which include; its health benefits, versatility, the natural/non-processed nature of primary meat, and its ability to deliver when it comes to that all important driver of satisfaction – taste.

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