Meat-free, Free-from to Hit Record Sales in 2013

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Meat-free, Free-from to Hit Record Sales in 2013


As health concerns remain high among British consumers, new research from Mintel reports that sales for meat-free and free-from foods are set to top £1 billion during 2013.

The meat-free and free-from foods market in the UK has experienced robust growth since 2007, with the market seeing a 39 percent increase in the past five years alone. Meat-free and free-from sales are expected to reach a total of £949 million in 2012 with meat-free sales set to reach £607 million and free-from market sales expected to reach £342 million. Almost four in ten (38 percent) consumers have bought vegetarian or meat-free food, while one in five (20 percent) have bought free-from food.

“The meat-free segment has benefited from a more mainstream positioning than free-from foods, with around one in ten consumers avoiding red meat as part of a healthy lifestyle,” said Amy Price, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel. “However, it is the free-from market which has been driving overall growth, benefitting from increased awareness and diagnosis among allergy sufferers and those self-diagnosing.”

Mintel’s consumer research finds as many as 15 percent of all British consumers choosing to keep red meat out of their diets for health and lifestyle reasons (13 percent).  Dairy is the single most avoided food type because of allergies and intolerance, with almost one in ten (8 percent) consumers avoiding these products.  Meanwhile, a greater number avoid fish or shellfish as part of a general healthy lifestyle (6 percent) than those who are avoiding it because of an allergy or intolerance (4 percent). Overall, 8 percent avoid wheat, 9 percent avoid gluten, 9 percent poultry and 8 percent nuts.

Meaty Sales for Meat-free Market

Meat-free foods continue to dominate the meat-free and free-from market with a 64 percent share. Valued at an estimated £607 million in 2012, these foods have increased 20 percent over the past five years.

“Perfectly positioned to thrive in the current climate, meat-free foods benefit from a cost, health, ethical and environmental stand as well as providing variety in consumer diets,” added Price. “The rising cost of meat has propped up past performance and could act as a boost to the meat-free market in the future.”

While sales continue to rise, the meat-free market continues to face challenges. Over four in ten consumers (42 percent) say they do not like the taste of meat substitutes, while more than a third (36 percent) believe that vegetarian and meat-free foods taste bland. A similar number (34 percent) claim not to know how to cook with meat substitutes, while almost half (49 percent) of British consumers opt for dishes that do not require meat or meat substitutes (such as pasta with pesto) when attempting to avoid meat.

Just 13 percent of the population said that they buy vegetarian or meat-free foods as a cheaper alternative to meat, fish orp oultry. With the retail price of lamb rising by 21 percent between 2010 and 2011 and fish seeing a 9 percent jump over the same period, there is more opportunity for the meat or fish substitutes market to position itself as an alternative option.

“The sizeable group of health-conscious consumers are ripe for targeting through vegetarian or meat-free foods and meat substitutes, possibly along the lines of ‘stealth health’, encouraging families to swap a meat-based meal for one that is vegetarian and therefore better for them,” Priced continued.

Free-from Sales

Between 2007 and 2012, sales of free-from foods almost doubled - rising 90 percent to reach £342 million by 2012. The market is primarily made up of gluten- or wheat-free products which are valued at £160 million and account for a 47 percent share of the market and dairy free products which are valued at £157 million and account for a 46 percent market share.