Flexitarianism declined in the UK during COVID-19, says market data

AHDB is exploring the needs of flexitarians in meat and dairy markets after diets shifted during the pandemic.
calendar icon 25 May 2021
clock icon 7 minute read

A shift in diets during the pandemic has seen the number of people adopting a flexitarian lifestyle fall to its lowest levels in four years – down 16% on last year.

According to the latest data from Kantar, the number of people not following any sort of conscious meat avoidance diet has risen to 81%, representing a staggering 52.4 million people in the UK.

However, experts predict the tide will turn and post-pandemic will see a return to people reducing their consumption of meat and dairy.

As a result, AHDB has produced a new article which explores how both markets can remain relevant to flexitarians, to prevent this important demographic leaving the categories altogether.

In its new article, "Understanding the preferences and needs of flexitarians", AHDB looks at what has changed over the last year, how the shift in diets has impacted the market for both meat and dairy and what opportunities exist.

It also examines the priorities of a flexitarian – highlighting the need for reassurances around health, environment and welfare.

AHDB Consumer Insight Manager and author of the report Susie Stannard said: “It is hugely important that we understand the needs of flexitarians as they still have one foot in the meat, fish and poultry category, and represent a much larger group than vegans or vegetarians.

“Flexitarians are generally more health conscious and are particularly concerned with ensuring their diet is balanced and contains plenty of fruit and vegetables, so there is a clear need to highlight the nutrients that are more easily available from meat and dairy.”

The article also reveals that over the last year, the number of households buying meat-free dropped by 0.7%, while those buying red meat grew by 1.1%.

Also, the number of meat, fish and poultry occasions returned to growth in 2020/21 – up 17%, having lost one per cent in the previous year. (Kantar 52 w/e Feb 2021)

Leading the return to meat occasions, was processed pork (23% growth) as people enjoyed sausages, bacon and ham sandwiches during lockdown. There was strong growth across all meat, with lamb seeing the smallest growth at 12%.

Susie added: “By better understanding the needs of flexitarians, we are able, as an industry, to take steps now to avoid seeing this important group of consumers leave the category altogether.”

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