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Brits spent over £1.3bn on vegan and vegetarian products in 2018

Quorn’s meat-free options. Photo: Nick Ansell/PA Archive/PA Images

Meat-eating Brits loaded up on more vegan and vegetarian products than ever before in 2018, spending over £1.3bn ($1.68bn) on what were previously seen as specialist or “faddy” foods.

Research by supermarket shopping app Ubamarket has found Brits now spend an average of £25 a week on meat substitutes.

Almost 19 million meat-eaters now buy vegan and vegetarian products, the figures show, and almost 12 million are stocking up on gluten-free meals despite having no intolerance.

As a result, Vegan brands such as Quorn, Linda McCartney, Alpro, Wicked Kitchen, BOL Foods, No Bull and Nush are no longer specialist products.

Reasons Brits gave for eating more meat alternatives included health issues relating to the consumption of meat, the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industry, and increasing consideration of the ethical ramifications of eating meat.

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Campaigns like Veganuary and Sugar Awareness Week have been particularly effective, with over a quarter (26%) of Brits saying their eating habits changed after partaking in the challenges.

Overall, Brits ate 150 million more meat-free meals in 2018 than they did the year before, transforming what was once a small market into a much larger one, Ubermarket said.

Greggs’ vegan sausage roll, which launched in January, sparked debate on social media and backlash from conservative commentators. However, it was so popular with millennials, it sold out across the country, and a stock trading app popular with millennial Brits saw a spike in interest in Greggs shares.

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Meanwhile, supermarkets have had to jump to consumer demand by incorporating an increasing number of vegan and vegetarian options as part of their offering. A quarter of UK shoppers told Ubamarket that supermarket layouts make shopping for meat-free products difficult.

This reflects Sainsbury’s recent decision to trial merging its aisles from meat products to vegan and vegetarian, all in the same section of stores.

Waitrose has also launched a new vegan range featuring 14 new products. The supermarket has seen a 110% increase in sales of its fish-less fingers in the space of one week, according to Ubamarket.

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Will Broome, CEO and founder of Ubamarket, said: “Supermarkets are becoming more and more aware of the increase in flexitarianism, welcoming a meat-free diet into the mainstream by incorporating products into the general layout of a store rather than relegating them to a few shelves in the corner.

“Our research has consistently shown shoppers find it difficult to locate speciality items in-store, leading to frustration and confusion. The importance of having systems in place that grant freedom for shoppers to make their own dietary decisions has never been more apparent.

“With easier ways to identify important allergens and ingredients on labels, more convenient store layouts and a smoother shopping format, consumers will be able to subscribe to alternative diets with ease.”