A hard habit to break

Meat sales are seeing a resurgence in the UK, says the National Craft Butchers. Furthermore, there’s an increase in spending in this sector. For all the campaigns to promote plant-based alternatives, meat consumption is on the rise.

There is no doubt that a visit to the supermarket shows plant-based meat alternatives around stores – some more prominently displayed than others – and the likes of Veganuary have played their part in generating interest and boosting sales.

Yet, the flipside is that people are visiting the butcher more and see meat as the protein source to provide ‘high quality’ despite the increase in plant-based purchases. I wouldn’t be surprised if trends show that meat sales have remained stable despite the campaigning.

Demand for meat is only going up, it seems. Meat-free alternatives’ place in the basket is as an extra source of protein rather than a direct replacement for meat. Protein’s presence has grown and for many consumers adding protein to a diet isn’t so much a trend as a way of life. Since interest in protein has peaked, the obsession with protein has grown, meaning that extra protein is added to our favourite go-to snacks, including chocolate bars, crisps and bread. When people discover that they aren’t getting enough protein, meat-free is an easy pick.

Questions now are around meat-free’s viability and whether plant-based meat will gain market share as the national press asks about plant-based meat products’ different ingredients.

Focusing on taste and price are the main priorities for the plant-based meat industry to turn a corner. But more work needs to be done to make people aware of what these foods offer consumers.

Price is a factor. In the Netherlands, rising meat prices mean that vegan meat is now slightly cheaper than its animal counterparts. In Europe, plant-based meat sales increased by 19 per cent in 2021, which could reflect higher meat prices or suggest a greater willingness on the part of Europeans to try plant-based alternatives.

Ultimately, people’s taste buds guide them where to shop, but industry does have an influence. There is clearly scope for plant-based to grow. Millennials are three times more likely to be vegan or vegetarian than their parents, with some suggesting that plant-based proteins could account for a third of the protein market by 2054.

Just how far things move in that direction is the question that brands and suppliers will want answered as quickly as possible. For now, companies must find the right balance in catering for new dietary demands alongside the existing, and growing, meat-loving customer.

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