The future of eating is flexitarian


Our new YouGov research shows that 44% of British people are willing or already committed to cutting down or cutting out meat. Our new report showcases over 20 food companies that are leading the way in offering better options to their customers. But more companies need to up their game.

When we launched our Eating Better business engagement just three years ago, we were hard pressed to name a handful of companies that were already engaged in the market for ‘less and better’ meat.  Since then, we are delighted that flexitarian eating has boomed in popularity. We are now able to showcase over 20 food companies, including high street chains and supermarkets, that are leading the way to help people eat a greater variety of plant-based foods and less meat, and to support ‘better meat’ from farming that benefits the environment and animal welfare.

Flexitarian eating: the role of business

Our new public opinion survey commissioned from YouGov (1) has found 44% of British people (2) are willing or already committed to cutting down on meat or cutting it out from their diet, confirming the major trend towards flexitarian eating habits. That’s great news, but while there is growing interest in flexitarian eating, there is unmet demand for new products, ingredients and menu options. Our YouGov survey found the public wanting to see companies offer many more meat-free and lower meat choices. Hence, we are calling for many more restaurants, fast food chains, supermarkets, food producers and food service providers to step up to the plate and better serve this fast growing market. With  meat-free sales alone soaring £17m on the back of flexitarian eating, this is a market that no company wants to miss out on.

Young people in particular are more interested than ever in eating less meat, making this a generational shift. Our survey found younger people are much more aware of the environmental impacts of meat eating, and more willing to cut down. Over twice as many (46%) young people (aged 18-24) agree that “producing and consuming meat/livestock products has a significant negative impact on the environment” compared with older people (20%) aged over 65.

There are many reasons why people are positively choosing more plant-based diets, including for health and ethical reasons, as well as being able to find a more exciting, convenient and tasty choice of products in supermarket aisles and on menus.

Our survey asked the British public what would most help people reduce their meat consumption. They said their top priorities are for restaurants and fast food chains to provide better choice of meat-free dishes or meals with less meat; for more price promotions for meat-free choices, more help with cooking vegetable-based dishes, more meat-free choices on school lunch menus and for supermarkets to provide more meat-free or lower meat ready meal choices.

Companies leading the way

To encourage and inspire more companies to join in, our report The future of eating is flexitarian: companies leading the wayshowcases supermarkets, high street food chains and food service companies that are finding ways to support their customers to eat less and better meat and more plant based food.

Examples include:

  • Pret A Manger’s Not Just For Veggies campaign that has trialled over 60 new vegetarian and plant-based products in the last year, rolling out monthly chef specials, opening two exclusively veggie stores in London and expanding the veggie product choice at all Pret stores.
  • Contract caterer Sodexo’s Green & Lean healthy and sustainable school meals
  • Asda’s flexitarian Green and bean lean beef mince with 40% haricot beans.
  • New plant-based menus at high street restaurant chains Zizzi’sLas Iguanas and Wetherspoons
  • Marks & SpencerCo-op and Tesco expanding their range of meat-free & plant-based choices.
  • Sainsbury’s working with Oxford University to trial ways of encouraging customers to eat less meat and more veg.
  • Waitrose & McDonald’s commitments to better meat and dairy.

Our report provides some suggestions on how food companies can better serve the flexitarian market and support customers to make healthier, more sustainable choices. We also take a look at the many organisations within the Eating Better alliance that are working directly with companies to help them on this path.

There is huge scope for more food companies to enjoy the business opportunities offered by the burgeoning flexitarian market. We call on companies to collaborate with civil society and governments, and help us drive change in dietary norms.

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