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Plant-based diets now commonplace, research suggests

One in two British shoppers either follow or are interested in a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diet, according to IGD survey

Plant-based diets now commonplace, research suggests

Plant-based eating is on the up
Photo: Marco Verch/Flickr

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Half of grocery shoppers in the UK either follow or are interested in a plant-based diet, according to new data from research charity IGD.

The finding, which covers vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets, rises from 52 per cent overall to 68 per cent among 18-24-year-olds.

Interest in veganism is particularly high among this age group, with 30 per cent following or considering following a vegan diet compared to just 17 per cent of shoppers overall.

Strict vegans are still a small minority, however, with only two per cent of British grocery shoppers claiming to stick to a vegan diet all of the time.

Vanessa Henry, shopper insight manager at IGD, said: “We are seeing an increasing number of people adopting a more flexible approach to their diets. Whether it’s just for one meal or one day a week, shoppers are increasingly choosing a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diet. 

“This is for a variety of reasons; the aspiration to be healthier, to adopt more ethical credentials and also to limit the impact on the environment. Some shoppers also claim it helps them reduce their overall food bill. 

“This suggests plant-based products being launched on the market now won’t just be confined to the two per cent of shoppers who identify more regularly with veganism. They will appeal to a much broader group of shoppers.”

The IGD study reveals that health and ethics are the main motivators for adopting a plant-based diet. According to the research shoppers are following or considering a plant-based diet for the following reasons:

- It’s healthier (45 per cent)

- It’s more ethical (41 per cent)  

- It’s better for the environment (30 per cent)

- It helps you lose weight or look better (21 per cent)

In addition, the research shows that 18-24-year-olds are more likely than the average shopper to be motivated by ethical reasons (51 per cent), environmental concerns (48 per cent) and to lose weight or look good (25 per cent).

Henry said: “From our data we can see that younger shoppers are more likely to follow or consider a plant-based diet, which is no surprise given they are the most socially engaged group. 

“With the rise in celebrities and health influencers sharing recipes and tips online, as well as the growing popularity of movements such as Veganuary and meat-free Mondays, the interest from this group suggests the trend could continue to grow as plant-based products become more mainstream.”

The charity stressed there is still work to do to educate shoppers and improve perceptions. Indeed, 38 per cent of grocery shoppers don’t believe vegan foods taste as good as non-vegan foods, and 42 per cent believe they will miss out on key nutrients if they follow a vegan diet. This opens up opportunities for retailers and manufacturers to invest in this area.

In addition, there appear to be sales opportunities for retailers in widening their vegan ranges. Some 22 per cent of shoppers said they would like to see more recipe ideas for vegan meals in supermarkets. The same percentage would like a greater choice of more convenient vegan options, such as ready meals.

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