The Future of Eating is Flexitarian
It’s one of the hottest food trends — flexitarianism. A bit of a mouthful, it’s true, but whatever you want to call it, people’s desire to eat more healthily (and help save the planet) by reducing their meat consumption, without cutting it out completely, is a major UK consumer trend.
Earlier this year, Kantar Worldpanel reported that 41% of the population are now flexitarian, meat-reducers or semi-vegetarians. And more than half of Brits (56%) think meat is not necessary to have a good meal, with only 18% stating the opposite. Our own Eating Better researchfinds that 44% of the British public are willing or already committed to cutting down on or cutting out meat eating. Long gone are the days when plant-based eating was considered a weird fringe activity.
Young people in particular are more interested than ever in eating less meat, making this a generational shift. Our survey found younger people are much more aware of the environmental impacts of meat eating, and more willing to cut down.
That’s great news, but while there is growing interest in flexitarian eating, there is unmet demand for new products, ingredients and menu options. Restaurants and food companies play a vital role in helping people make healthy and sustainable choices. When we asked the British public earlier this year what would most help them reduce their meat consumption, their top priority was for restaurants and high street food chains to provide better choice of meat-free dishes or meals with less meat.
And it is already starting to happen. Earlier this year we were able to showcase over 20 food companies, including high street restaurant chains and chefs that are leading the way to help people eat a greater variety of plant-based foods and less meat, and to support ‘better meat’ from farming that benefits the environment and animal welfare.
We found examples of chefs, such as Bruno Loubet at London’s Grainstore putting vegetables centre-plate and restaurant chains including Pizzi, Las Iguanas and Wetherspoons upping their plant-based choices on menus. Great tasting dishes are key to any restaurants success, offering chefs the opportunity to experiment with exciting flavours and ingredients to entice customers. Sourcing higher standard meat and dairy ingredients such as free-range, organic, pasture-reared, or locally sourced can add distinctive specialities to menus.
Eating Better is delighted to support the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s new campaign: Serve More Veg and Better Meat. At Eating Better we celebrate and welcome the steps that an increasing number of food businesses are taking and we encourage them to go further. We also encourage many more food companies to see the business opportunities in the burgeoning flexitarian market — and to see companies serving customers expectations for ‘better’ meat that is produced to higher welfare and environmental standards, which is less wasteful and which benefits local producers.
The evidence demonstrating the need for such dietary shifts is clear and urgent. The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement commitments to keep global temperature rise within safe limits cannot be met without including dietary change as a priority solution. Additionally there is strong evidence that predominantly plant-based diets with smaller quantities of livestock products are necessary to tackle the spiralling health care costs to individuals, society and our NHS of obesity, heart disease, cancers and diabetes.
There are many reasons why people are positively choosing more plant-based diets, including for health and ethical reasons, as well as being able to find a more exciting, convenient and tasty choice of products when eating out.
Read more about the Eating Better Alliance (www.eating-better.org)
Eating Better’s report The Future of Eating is Flexitarian: Companies Leading the Way can be downloaded here
Sue Dibb , Executive Director, Eating Better Alliance