Around one in five people (18%) in the UK have eaten more vegetarian/vegan food since the start of the pandemic last March, with a similar number saying that COVID-19 means it’s more likely they’ll become fully vegetarian or vegan from now on, according to a new study into the nation’s attitude to food.
For more than a quarter of us (28%), the primary reason for the accelerated shift towards plant-based diets was concerns over the hygiene standards of meat – which stumped any of the ‘traditional’ arguments for vegetarianism. Some 26% said cited animal welfare concerns, 23% noted health reasons and 22% suggested the environmental impact of meat products was the key influence.
The survey of more than 1,000 UK adults was commissioned by Proagrica, global provider of technology solutions for the agriculture and animal health industries. It also found that almost a third of Brits (29%) will consider reducing their meat consumption or going vegetarian/vegan if the pandemic continues this year.
In addition, more than a third (39%) say they’d be likely to try a plant-based alternative to meat at a restaurant or fast-food outlet.
“Changing dietary choices suggest the trend towards plant-based foods goes way beyond Veganuary. It does seem the pandemic is hastening this behavior though, this presents fresh opportunities and there’s a real chance for plant-based to make in-roads this year.”– Graeme McCracken, Managing Director at Proagrica
“British consumers could still be a tough nut to crack when it comes to meat-free. 41% of those surveyed told us nothing could make them give up meat,” said McCracken. “As hygiene and health rise up the agenda retailers will need to reassure customers all their food products are safe though. This will bring traceability and provenance to the fore across the supply chain and highlights the need for greater collaboration.”
The research also highlighted the pandemic has seen a shift in how consumers purchase their food. Around one in six (15%) now buy the bulk of their food online, while a fifth (21%) say they now shop more often and spend less per trip, to avoid creating food waste. Finally, 12% buy frozen food or freeze their own food more than previously.
McCracken added: “How we shop has changed considerably over the past 12 months, and while some are looking to minimise contact outside of their bubble, the primary driver is to save money.
“Many people have had to rationalise their expenditure since the pandemic began and around a fifth are cutting meat for this this reason. The British may claim to be a nation of carnivores but what could ultimately make us change our diets is the pressure on our weekly shopping budget.”