The number of vegans and vegetarians is growing, but confirmed meat eaters will remain and possibly look at higher-end cuts of meat, says an international food-marketing expert.
But the middle is where it gets interesting — with “flexitarians” looking for good sources of protein and willing to have a mix of plant and animal proteins, David Hughes said at the recent Banff Pork Seminar.
There are numerous examples in the U.K. of products catering to this group, with items such as pork or beef sausages and patties mixed with haricot or red kidney beans, said Hughes, emeritus professor of food marketing at Imperial College London.
Flexitarians — often women aged 25 to 35 with relatively high incomes — are making choices for health reasons, perceived benefits for the environment, and animal welfare.
“Not only will we see more vegan and vegetarian options, but products like pizzas, lasagnas, and pies will replace a proportion of the meat with plants,” said Hughes.
Faux meat is also a growing trend, thanks to products such as Quorn, which mimics chicken, he said. The British company which invented the product was recently purchased by a large Philippine company to serve the Asian market.
“In my mind Quorn will be the first billion-dollar global brand of fake meat,” said Hughes, noting Quorn has more space in the meat case section of U.K. grocery stores than any meat protein.
“There is a tsunami of veg protein on English shelves — and other countries, like Iceland, are following suit.”
There’s growing world demand for protein but also a “retreat from meat” with dairy, plant, and alternate protein sources such as algae and insects gaining traction, he said.
Animal activists aren’t the only ones driving this shift, but also mainstream media such as The Economist are focusing on alternatives to meat proteins, said Hughes, adding there is increasing social pressure on consumers, who are being asked about where their food comes from and how it was made.
“I want to eat food that’s good for me and my family and that I feel good about eating,” Hughes said of today’s consumers.
And they want all of that right now.
“Striking to me is the extent that global trends are driven and converging through social media,” he said. “I am seeing young people in China with similar views to their counterparts in the U.S.
“While kids used to come home and say, ‘What’s for dinner?’ — young people may be saying, ‘What is dinner?’”
All of the growth in food manufacturing in North America is coming from smaller companies, with big companies generally seeing declining sales, said Hughes.
“I have never seen a better opportunity for small-scale companies to do well, and what’s more, to seek financing from big food companies. They are interested in these products.”
There are significant opportunities for the pork sector in all of this but it must move fast, he added.
“The meat industry must substantially up its marketing game or it will hemorrhage quickly.”