A new report from market researcher NIQ has found that despite 4.1 million (14.3%) of UK households consuming a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or flexitarian option in 2023, a focus on value and price points means that the plant-based category is struggling for growth.
The report entitled, 'Flexitarianism: from niche to mainstream', looked into the spending and consumption habits of consumers adhering to vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian and flexitarian diets in the UK.
Cost Of Living Crisis
The report reveals that amid a cost of living crisis, some categories are finding it challenging to achieve growth as cost pressures rise.
Three out of every four (73%) plant-diet shoppers are actively trying to make savings on their grocery bills, with opting for promotions (62%) their preferred way to do this.
Additionally, Veganuary unit sales in 2023 declined for chilled meat alternatives (-16.8%) and frozen meat alternatives (-13.5%) while plant based milks saw little growth (+0.9%) compared with normal milk (+28.8%), compared to the previous year's numbers.
Price Is A Factor
NIQ's report indicates that alternatives still cost significantly more than standard ranges (despite slower inflation), while shoppers are becoming more price sensitive in the current challenging economic conditions.
It said that Veganuary - traditionally a time for shoppers to switch to dairy and meat alternative diets - resulted in a decline in unit sales for most dairy and meat alternative categories in January 2023 compared with the same period last year.
Despite this, there still remains a market for plant-based products, as NIQ data shows that 38% of the UK population are replacing meals containing meat with vegan or vegetarian alternatives at least once a week.
'Challenging Economic Pressures'
“UK consumers are being faced with challenging economic pressures, and price is an important factor dissuading flexible eaters from buying into meat and dairy alternatives, in the current climate," said Katrina Bishop, UK thought leadership activation manager at NIQ.
"This is reflected in the impact Veganuary had in driving new interest this year, with retailer focus being more on overall price messaging, which impacted sales during this period.”