Is ‘flexitarianism’ the future?

A workshop held at the University of Nottingham revealed that ‘flexitarianism’ is a new and growing trend amongst British consumers. Delegates at an event that discussed plant-based diets heard how eating more plant-based products represented a sustainable future for food and drink production.

Organised by the Agrifood Training Partnership (AFTP), and chaired by AFTP Director Carol Wagstaff, the workshop heard from industry speakers about how plant-based diets are growing in popularity.

Seven per cent of the British population is vegan, while 14% identify as vegetarian. However, more than 30% of the population identify themselves as ‘flexitarians’. This new group has emerged through a desire to enjoy a more balanced diet and is driven by environmental concerns and a desire to see a more sustainable future for food production.

Jan England, managing director of market research company England Marketing, said: “80% of British children do not eat the recommended five a day and 20% are obese. Compare this with 90% of adults not eating five a day and a higher 26% obese and it is clear that the population needs to find more ways to include plant-based ingredients in their diet.”

Tiia Morsky, ingredient research team leader at Campden BRI, confirmed that food producers were seeking ways to incorporate more plant-based ingredients into popular food choices to sustain the availability and popularity of the nation’s favourite foods.

The development of ingredients such as plant-based emulsions to replace mayonnaise and foams to replace egg whites are on the rise as food producers seek more sustainable means of producing consumer staples. The goal being to produce food rich in protein without using animal-based ingredients.

Delegates heard that trends were leading food producers to find ways to invent alternatives to household favourites. Marit Nijmann, business development scientist at Nottingham University’s Sensory Science Centre, explained that ‘bleeding vegan burgers’ had been created to offer consumers the same dining experience as an animal meat burger.

Carol Wagstaff said: “We have heard some fascinating talks exploring the challenges of plant-based product development…should we be aspiring to imitate meat, replace it or create entirely new eating experiences? What we do know is that a more plant-based diet is already part of our future.”

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