Mintel Expects UK Meat-free Food Sales to Top £1.1 Billion by 2024

LinkedIn Pinterest Tumblr

From meatless steak bakes to Burger King’s plant-based Whoppers, it seems that vegan food product launches are now in full swing in the United Kingdom as new research from Mintel reveals a nation hungry for meat-free foods.

Over the past two years, the number of Brits who have eaten meat-free foods has shot up from 50% in 2017 to 65% in 2019. Meanwhile, sales of meat-free products have grown an impressive 40% from £582 million in 2014 to an estimated £816 million in 2019. Such is the popularity of meat-free food that sales are expected to be in excess of £1.1 billion by 2024.

According to Mintel research carried out among 2,000 Internet users aged 16+ in September of 2019, the proportion of meat eaters who have reduced or limited the amount of meat they consume has risen from 28% in 2017 to 39% in 2019. Women are more likely than men to have limited or reduced the amount of meat in their diets (42% compared to 36%); this rises to 45% among all under the age of 45. But while the meat-free market is thriving, 38% of non-users would prefer to substitute meat with other ingredients such as cheese or pulses, rather than buy meat substitutes.

And while the flexitarian diet – comprised of predominantly plant-based food, with some meat and fish – is all the buzz, meat remains a cornerstone of Britons’ diets, with 88% of Brits eating red meat/poultry. This comes as research from Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) reveals that almost a quarter (23%) of all new UK food product launches in 2019 were labeled as vegan, compared to 17% in 2018. However, there has been no significant increase in the proportion of consumers who say they are vegan since 2018, according to Mintel research, with those following a vegan diet still only equating to around 1% of the UK population.

“The rising popularity of flexitarian diets has helped to drive demand for meat-free products,” said Kate Vlietstra, a global food and drink analyst at Mintel. “Many consumers perceive that plant-based foods are a healthier option, and this notion is the key driver behind the reduction in meat consumption in recent years.”

She continued: “As the meat-free market becomes increasingly crowded, brands will need to find more ways to distinguish themselves from their competitors – it’s no longer enough to just be meat-free. Companies will need to be transparent about the healthiness of their products, and also address the quality and quantity of nutrients to win over the discerning consumer. Meat-free products are generally aimed towards young professionals, who tend to be receptive to trying new foods, but we are also likely to see these products targeted at both children and over-55s in the future.”

Environmental, Health and Money Concerns

Mintel research highlights strong awareness of environmental issues linked to meat production, as half of British consumers overall (48%) see reducing consumption of animal products because they perceive this to be a good way to lessen humans’ impact on the environment.

Meanwhile, environmentally friendly packaging would prompt three quarters (75%) of meat-free users/buyers to buy one meat-free food product over another.

When asked about the benefits of eating less meat, “improving the environment” is cited by a quarter (25%) of those cutting back; but the top reason given by nearly a third of those reducing meat intake (32%) is that it “helps to improve health,” followed closely by “it’s a good way to save money” (31%).

Finally, from vegetable lasagna to bean burgers, Mintel research finds there is a strong “feel good” factor associated with meat-free products: 79% of meat-free users/buyers say that eating meat-free foods makes them feel good; the figure rises to 85% among those who have actively limited or reduced their meat intake in the last six months.

“Whilst the health benefits of eating less meat appear to still be the primary motivation of flexitarian consumers, the environmental impact of the meat industry has also become an important reason for meat avoidance,” said Vlietstra. “Gen Z consumers (persons aged 16-24) are leading the charge here, with 54% of under 25s seeing the reduction of animal products as a good way to lessen humans’ impact on the environment.”

More information about Mintel’s Meat-free Foods UK 2019 Report is available by visiting