While only 6% of adults identify themselves as vegetarians, as many as three in five UK adults now eat meat-free food. Demand from people eating both meat and meat-free foods, has been a key factor supporting underlying growth in the market, driven for example by the quest for variety and health considerations.

Growth of 18% is estimated for the meat-free foods market between 2005-10, to reach £553 million. Indeed, as the number of vegetarians has remained broadly steady, rising usage by meat-eaters and expansion to new product areas have supported underlying growth, and look to remain important for the future.

Consumers cutting back on meat to save money and high visibility for the sector thanks to a number of ad campaigns have helped to drive value growth in 2009, together with high food price inflation. Growth slowed noticeably in 2010 against the strong comparison.

Going forward, the market looks set to benefit from the projected growth in better off ABs and 25-34-year-olds, both being keen users of meat-free foods. Against this background, Mintel expects the market to grow to a total of £673 million in 2015.

Consumer research shows considerable openness among mainstream consumers to meat-free food if it delivers as a culinary experience, with nearly half of adults saying they would consider such food if it was tasty or exciting in its own right. Supporting this finding, the quest for variety stands out as the most popular reason for eating meat-free or vegetarian foods.

Products bringing diversity to the mainstream meat-free offering stand to find demand among the 11 million adults who say they would eat meat-free food more, given greater variety.

The ready and ready-to-cook meal sectors could benefit from broadening their meat-free offering, to cater for the 12 million adults that think there aren’t enough meat-free options in these categories.

Over three million 16-34-year-olds would like to cut back on meat/fish/poultry, a potentially lucrative target for meat-free foods that can facilitate this within their established cooking habits.

Traditional and natural high protein ingredients like tempeh or quinoa could spark interest among the nearly seven million beter off ABs who report being put off by meat-substitutes because they see these as artificial or processed.

Meat-free foods drawing inspiration from ethnic cuisines could spark interest among the four million 25-34-year-olds who would consider vegetarian or meat-free food if it was exciting or tasty in its own right, this age group also being top users of ethnic foods.

Delivering on all around healthiness, such as low fat and calories, could help meat-free foods increase their appeal to the nearly seven million adults who choose such foods when wanting a lighter meal.

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