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Plant-based product push, but UK slow to react

Plant-based product claims increased by 62% globally in the four years to 2017, according to research published by Innova Market Insights.

Growing consumer interest in health, sustainability and ethics has driven the trend, with the dairy alternatives market a “particular beneficiary”. Global sales of dairy alternative drinks are set to reach US$16.3 billion (£12.3 billion) in 2018 and they accounted for over 8% of global dairy launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in 2017, up from 7% over 2016.

Innova has also forecast that the global meat substitutes market will reach $4.2 billion (£3.2 billion) by 2022.

The report comes in the same week that UK supermarkets were found to be failing to cater for the growing number of people looking for vegetarian and vegan ready meals.

A survey by the alliance of NGOs, Eating Better, found that more than three quarters (77%) of own label and branded ready meals have meat as their main ingredient despite growing demand for plant-based alternatives.

Eating Better surveyed 1,350 ready meals from 10 UK food retailers. Overall only 3% of meals were plant-based (containing no meat, fish, dairy or egg) with Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s offering the largest number of choices. No plant-based options were found in Iceland and only 1 in M&S.

The alliance’s own research has found that 44% of British people are willing or already committed to cutting down on meat or cutting it out completely, often for health or environmental reasons.

“While there has been an explosion of interest in plant-based eating and higher welfare meat, retailers are falling short on ready meals,” said Simon Billing, executive director of Eating Better.

Billing called on supermarkets to increase their plant-based and healthier vegetarian ready meal offer and to use meat and dairy that meets higher animal welfare and environmental standards across the rest of their range.

Tesco launched a 20-strong range of vegan ready meals, pizzas and food-to-go offerings under the brand Wicked Kitchen earlier this year, while Waitrose and Sainsbury’s have recently extended their own vegan and vegetarian offers.