“I find that I used to adore meat, but now a meat substitute burger does it for me, when I have it with onions and ketchup, it does the job. I guess it reminds me of the taste,” David Finney admits. He turned his back on meat seven years ago, and uses meat alternatives for variety in his meals.
Duncan Smith, a vegetarian for 19 years, says the versatility of the food makes it easy to eat with others. “If someone is cooking a dinner, you can have what they have minus the meat.”
The UK market for meat-free products such as tofu, sausages, burgers, and imitation chicken fillets was most recently put at £786.5m a year, up 7.7% from five years earlier. A further 10.3% increase is expected over the next five years, according to market research company Key Note.
But this boom in meat-free products is no longer being driven solely by vegetarians.
Just 6% (3.8m) of the UK population identified themselves as “mainly” vegetarian (eating fish but not meat) in 2011, and 3% (1.9m) as completely vegetarian.
So who is fuelling the rise?
Su Taylor from the Vegetarian Society says it’s “people with differing motivations”, which could be health, environment, animal welfare or just “trying something different”.
They include “meat reducers” – people who may have bought in to campaigns such as “Meat Free Mondays” and are trying to reduce their carbon footprint.
IT consultant Alex Evans is one such follower, and says he now has “more meat-free days than not”.
“The great thing with the campaign is that it only asks people to cut out meat one day a week, so I’m free to eat meat on other days.
“By cutting down on meat I now eat more vegetables as main meals, whereas before I thought vegetables could only be used as sides.”
“I think a lot of meat-eaters are becoming semi-vegetarian,” Duncan Smith explains.
“Eating meat is something ingrained from childhood. To stop eating it, means a complete change in habits, and it’s very hard,” he says.
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The UK’s brand leader Quorn has a 56% share of the meat-free market, and is now marketing its food in a different way to a different set of consumers – omnivores.
Quorn is made from mycoprotein, a fungus grown and mixed with egg whites to create textured imitation meats.
Chris Wragg, the marketing director at Quorn, says its research shows 69% of UK households are “open to” a meat-free meal.
Quorn is now aiming at “healthy eaters”, those looking to lower their cholesterol, and weight watchers seeking to reduce their fat and calorie intake…
Read more: BBC