Health has been high on the agenda for some time and is firmly established as a mega trend across the grocery market. However, health can take many forms, such as high protein, vegetarianism, various dietary requirements, low salt, low calorie – the list goes on. One sub-trend of health is the rise of meat-free and plant-based produce hitting the shelves.

There is no doubt that the relentless rise of growing consumer responsibility around more personal health, animal and planetary welfare will catalyse further growth in meat-reduction dietary preferences. But how far will it go over the next decade?

Vegetarianism and veganism will potentially become sufficiently popular normal practices that a tipping point will be reached whereby the tables are turned and meat dishes will be the versions consumers have to ‘opt-in’ for. In the six months to November 2019, 3% of UK adults became vegan and 22% stated that they were eating less meat than they used to (MCA Hot Topics Report November 2019).

The strong likelihood is that meat consumption will decrease and will migrate towards lower quantity, but higher quality, more premiumised product with even higher provenance and sustainability credentials. The MCA Menu & Food Trends Report 2019 identifies provenance as a real opportunity, with 29% of consumers agreeing that operators should put a greater focus on locally-sourced products.

In addition, product quality is growing in importance to consumers, particularly within convenience. The HIM Convenience Market Report 2019 shows that quality of fresh meat and fish, fresh fruit and veg and fresh bread and bakery were the three store KPIs that returned the highest annual increases in importance. Unfortunately for convenience, they were also the three that saw the largest decreases in customer satisfaction – highlighting a potential threat to the sector.

The volume of plant-based and vegan npd hitting the sector is gathering pace and will need skilful demand assessment and shelf-space management. Certainly, demand will be stronger in catchments with higher proportions of younger adults, as opposed to those with a more elderly skew.