The number of flexitarians is set to rise by 10% in the UK next year, Mintel said. The eating-out sector has responded to this by boosting the number of vegetarian dishes on menus.
Meat-free dishes accounted for 31% of new menu items across the eating-out sector, which was up from 18% in 2014.
Research by Vegetarian Express earlier in the year claimed 71% of those asked wanted to see more vegetarian options on menus, with more protein and better health qualities incorporated into them.
More than half (52%) of consumers also told Mintel they believed vegetarian options were better for the environment.
‘Vegetarian market growing’
Managing director at Vegetarian Express Will Matier, said: “There’s no doubt about it, the vegetarian market is growing. You just have to look at the number of dedicated vegetarian restaurants opening up on the high street to see evidence of that.
“If caterers are to compete, they must offer more choice – not just in terms of the number of dishes, but also the quality of food.”
Most popular vegetarian ingredients:
- Beans (63%)
- Nuts (48%)
- Tofu (37%)
- Source: Vegetarian Express
Interest in meat alternatives and vegan food was led by 18–29 year olds and the demographic would grow increasingly interested in the coming years, according to research from the J Water Thompson Innovation Group’s Future Food and Drink report.
Consumers now, more than ever, were viewing their food and drink holistically, according to worldwide director of the Innovation Group Lucie Greene.
She said: “It’s not about product service or ingredients – brands and retailers are being assessed on what a product does to the environment, their supply chain, how thy treat their staff from production to service, whether their ingredients are natural or more.”
Beef dishes dropping
As a result of the rise in flexitarians and the subsequent increase in vegetarian options, the number of beef dishes on menus had dropped significantly in popularity. Just 8% of new menus incorporated beef into dishes, compared with 18% in 2014, according to M&C Allegra Foodservice’s New Menu Item Analysis report earlier this year.
Meanwhile, pub operators were criticised for not working hard enough to cater for the UK’s growing vegan population.
Tim Barford, the organiser of the VegFest vegan events in London, Brighton, Bristol and Glasgow throughout the year, said most chefs lacked the basic knowledge to prepare truly vegan food and, therefore, potentially missing out on the thousands of pounds in food sales.