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National Vegetarian Week (16th – 22nd May) aims to educate consumers on the positive impact of vegetarian and vegan diets on the climate and personal health. And with a further 8.8 million Brits planning to go meat-free this year in addition to an existing population of 7.2 million, there is a huge market to sell vegetarian food to in 2022.
Health, wellbeing, allergies, intolerances, the environment and sustainability are at the forefront of consumers’ minds in 2022, with EIT’s latest Trust Survey revealing that 75% of Brits are motivated to live a sustainable life and 59% are currently eating healthily.
As Louise Wymer, UK CEO of plant-based cooking sauce brand The Simple Root explains, “It is clear that the free-from and plant-based sectors are becoming forces to be reckoned with. Some of the biggest trends have been shaped by a real shift in consumer expectations of plant-based food, they are wanting “real” plant-based options, not plant-based science experiments.”
The Simple Root recently carried out a survey with 600 UK consumers to identify key drivers in the meat-free category and found that 1/3 of people are looking for recognisable ingredients and want fruit and vegetables to be the primary ingredients. According to Louise, when it comes to veggie alternatives, “It’s no longer just about cutting out meat or dairy, but about getting more actual veg and goodness into our diets.”
ShelfNow also identified unrefined ingredients as a major trend in the vegetarian and vegan sector. As the digital wholesaler’s CEO Philip Linardos explains, “Independent retailers can ensure that they are catering to the trend by stocking a wide range of unique products that really speak to the trend and recognise what consumers are seeking.
“For example, some producers listed on our marketplace use surplus vegetables that would ordinarily be discarded and others use organic produce as the foundation of their products. We are finding that sustainability is increasingly important to our retail buyers when they are deciding what to purchase.”
Championing brands that use natural and make sustainability efforts such as surplus or wonky fruit and vegetables could help to drive interest and sales in fine food retail.
Quality comes out on top
While convenience meat-free options such as the Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll and McDonalds McPlant burger are hugely popular, the discerning consumer is still looking for premium quality minus the meat.
According to Philip, “Consumer interest in plant-based products has been steadily evolving over recent years and the demand for more variety and higher quality products along with it. Initially, plant-based options were perceived as just a replacement for meat, but now we are seeing a shift in attitude towards this sector as it continues to go from strength to strength and consumers actively seek out meat alternatives.
“Plant-based produce is now becoming the centre focus of dishes, which is driving the demand for greater quality and diversity of products on the market.”
Cashing in on the meat-free trend
Providing a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan products so that shoppers are offered the chance to explore new trends for themselves, as well as providing for those who already know what they like and are ready to make more decisive purchases is a surefire way to cash in on veggie-curious shoppers.
Philip explains, “As the plant-based sector is currently undergoing an exciting era of innovation and creativity, it’s a good idea to cater to as many tastes and preferences as possible, which launching a dedicated range of vegetarian and vegan products will ensure.
“Introducing brand new products for National Vegetarian Week will give retailers the opportunity to drive consumer excitement and interest in existing plant-based ranges. Some specific initiatives that retailers could look to organise to upsell plant-based products, can centre on educating customers on why plant-based products can be better choices. There are various ways this can be done such as in-store point-of-sale display, staff training, or even social media amplification to attract footfall to the stores and trial the products.
“Furthermore, offering promotional discounts or organising an in-person pop-up event is always a really effective way to impress potential customers as pop-up stalls allow individuals to trial the products there and then, which can help to drive long-term sales significantly.”
Louise concludes, “The appeal of a plant-based diet has been fully embraced in recent years and isn’t going anywhere. This means consumers expect to see both major supermarkets and indie retailers shift their focus to the plant-based category and cater to the way consumers want to eat now: modern, plant-based, and better for you.
“Indie retailers are in a unique position where they can understand their consumer’s eating choices and have the control to cater to these evolving needs. Being nimble and reacting to new innovation, and keeping an eye on the category’s growth will ensure independents can maximise their own potential.”