10 things you need to know about selling vegetarian food

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Increasing demand for vegetarian food on pub menus, according to research
Increasing demand for vegetarian food on pub menus, according to research

Related tags Vegetarianism Uk

More people are considering meat-free dishes when they eat out and want to see more choice on the menu. Here are 10 things to consider when putting vegetarian options on your menu.

1) Healthier eating

Consumers are seeking more vegetarian options because they believe it is healthier and better for the environment.  However, it is a major challenge for pubs to get right on their menus.


2) 1.2 million vegetarians in the UK

There are no definitive figures about the number of vegetarians in the UK, however, government estimates from 2012 show about 2% of Brits are vegetarian and 1% vegan. That’s about 1.2 million people.

More recent statistics, published by Mintel in 2014 by consumer company Mintel, estimated that 12% of UK adults followed a vegetarian or vegan diet. This rose to 20% for those aged between 16 and 24.


3) Potential market of 20 million people

Taking into account Mintel’s figures and the UK population of 65 million, that’s a potential target market of more than 20 million people looking for meat-free options.

Mintel also predicted this figure would rise by 10% in the UK this year.


4) More vegetarian dishes on menus

While there is still more work to do, the trend for more vegetarian dishes on menus has already started to filter through, according to M&C Allegra Foodservice’s New Menu Item Analysis ​report.

Vegetarian dishes now account for more than 30% of new menu items and leading pub chains had 19% of their menu targeted at meat-free customers, said Peter Linden, a senior analyst at M&C.


5) Chain operators are adding meat-free alternatives

Operators such as Toby Carvery and Harvester have added more meat-free options to their menus. For example, Toby Carvery offers an aubergine gratin, as well as butternut squash crumble, lentil cottage pie and a meat-free carvery.

Meanwhile, Harvester offers mozzarella pasta bake, halloumi and chips, and cellentani pasta.


6) More complex and adventurous variety

According to Linden, those chains that are getting into vegetarian food are becoming more adventurous with their ingredients.

He said: “The variety and quality is becoming more adventurous, with more exotic influences. There’s okra in curry at the Toby Carvery, which is an adventurous ingredient.”


7) Vegetables are a valid food offer in their own right

Offering vegetables as a food option is not just a niche, as vegetables are becoming more interesting in their own right, said New York-based Innovation Group’s worldwide director Lucie Greene.

“We have multi-coloured carrots and the rainbow carrots, heritage tomatoes and different types of vegetables being appreciated for their different properties and flavours.”


8) Meaty looking meat-free alternatives

Lots of research and development is being done to create meat-free alternatives that look, feel and sometimes taste like meat, Greene added.

In the US, scientists are taking the chemical makeup of meat and reconstructing it using vegetables, such as spinach and mushroom. One new product even bleeds.


9) Still not enough vegetarian food

According to recent research by vegan and vegetarian food distributor Vegetarian Express, more than 300 of the consumers it asked said there were not enough meat-free options on the menu. More than a third of those asked wanted to see between five and 10 options offered.

Vegetarian Express managing director Will Matier said: “If pubs are to compete, they must offer more choice, not just in terms of the number of dishes, but also the quality of food.”


10) Quorn is pushing into foodservice

Quorn is one of the largest vegetarian brands in the UK, taking most of the market share in retail, and is making inroads into the eating-out sector.

More than 4,000 establishments serve Quorn products, including major pub chains JD Wetherspoon, Whitbread, Spirit and Stonegate Pub Company.


Read the full vegetarian report here.

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