Increases in meat and dairy alternatives are being driven by curious consumers keen to try something new, as opposed to a rise in veganism.

According to a new report launched this week by Agriculture and Horticulture and Development Board (AHDB), sales are being driven, not by vegans, but by meat-eaters keen to explore their options.

The report also focused on the factors driving media attention to the plant-based food trend and how this will impact future prospects for the meat and dairy industries in the UK.

‘Driving media attention’

AHDB senior consumer insight analyst, Susie Stannard, marvelled at the impact that veganism has had on media outlets:

There is only a tiny minority of the population are actually vegan, with meat and dairy remaining cornerstones of the British diet, yet it has dominated media in recent months.

Veganism continues to receive a disproportionate amount of media attention and we wanted to explore what’s driving this attention and how it plays out in the marketplace,” she said.

According to the investigation, a total of 7% of the population classify themselves as vegetarian, with 4% pescetarian – somebody who eats fish and dairy but no meat – and just 2% vegan.

So-called ‘flexitarians’ – who cut down on meat consumption for health reasons – make up a further 7% of the population.

Yet, there are currently more plant-based products on the market than ever before, with supermarkets cashing in on this latest food fad.

The AHDB suggests that this is due to the high crossover in the purchase of meat and dairy alternatives driven by “curious” meat eaters.

‘Young consumers’

Stannard noted that it has been our young consumers who have “fanned the flames” of the new ‘fad’ diet.

“In light of this, we have found that many more people are interested in taking on board some elements of a plant-based diet even if they are not willing to commit full-time,” said Stannard.


However, the grass is not always greener on the other side, as many consumers encountered issues when it came to the new ‘fad diet’, noting that cost, taste and how it made them feel are the biggest barriers.

The report revealed that young women are the most likely to take up this new diet, but unless the diet is carefully monitored a lack of red meat can cause serious health issues.

According to the National Diet Survey, young women are not eating the recommended levels of red meat.


Globally, anaemia is the biggest nutritional deficiency and in the UK, between two and 5% of men and non-menstruating women suffer with the condition.

The figure is much higher among menstruating women.

‘Let imaginations run wild’

In light of these latest revelations industry has been encouraged to let their ‘imaginations run wild’. New and innovative ways to market meat and dairy products need to be established throughout the supply chain to stay in favour with consumers.

There are changes on the horizon but, as yet, British consumers, by and large, are maintaining their desire to eat meat and dairy.

“But there are opportunities to be had in moving beyond ‘commoditisation’ of meat and dairy and looking towards more brand and solution-led marketing,” said Stannard.

Meat and dairy alternatives

Food manufacturers and retailers have been quick to spot and respond to the growing demands for plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy.

Meat substitute product launches accounted for almost 14% of all new ‘meat’ launches tracked in Western Europe.

Commenting on this revelation, the AHDB analyst said:

Investment in driving down environmental impacts, more ethical methods of production and paying closer attention to product quality will cost more in the short term.

“If meat and dairy alternatives end up being a viable, acceptable tasting and cost-effective option for consumers, then this could become the price of entry.”