Not having a meat-free range as a modern independent retailer means you could be missing out on hundreds of pounds a week.

According to IGD data, 68% of 18- to 24-year-olds say they are interested in plant-based diets, and it’s this age group that is even more likely than the average shopper to opt for meat-free products because of ethical reasons, environmental concerns and to lose weight. 

Alex Glen, marketing director at Quorn Foods, says vegan products make up 12% of the company’s range and it is an area that is growing.

“For the first time, more than half of all consumers are reducing their meat consumption and 57% of people believe that reducing meat benefits the environment,” he says.

Vanessa Henry, shopper insight manager at IGD, explains that on the back of this, it is seeing an increasing number of people adopting a more flexible approach to their diets, whether it’s just for one meal or one day a week.  

“With the rise in celebrities and health influencers sharing recipes online, as well as the growing popularity of Veganuary and meat-free Mondays, the interest from this group suggests the trend could continue to grow as plant-based products become more mainstream,” she adds.

However, there is still a lot of work to do in educating shoppers on vegan and vegetarian diets to help perception, especially with 38% of shoppers claiming they don’t believe vegan food tastes as good as non-vegan food. 

Henry continues: “Forty-two per cent believe they will miss out on key nutrients if they follow a vegan diet, opening up an opportunity for suppliers to invest in this area.”

The good thing for retailers is that the meat-free category is exploding, and Dan Staackmann, Upton’s Naturals founder, says people no longer have to hunt down meat alternatives as they can now find meat-free products where they regularly shop – such as your store.

Frozen foods

As one of the fastest-growing segments in the frozen category, it is important for retailers to have frozen meat-free options in store.

Within this, Quorn accounts for 47% of all frozen meat-free sales, so retailers can use Quorn to signpost meat-free options as part of their ‘meal for tonight’ offer. 

Quorn’s Glen adds that frozen meat-free products are also crucial in attracting new consumers into the frozen category.

“It’s important retailers stock products such as nuggets, burgers and sausages as these make the introduction to meat-free simple.

“Price-sensitive shoppers are always looking for value for money. This, coupled with a rise in consumers reducing their meat consumption, enables retailers to take advantage when stocking Quorn’s frozen price-marked range by presenting shoppers with the value they’re seeking while offering a meat-free alternative.”

Specialist diets

Being able to respond to changing consumer trends quickly is vital to success, and research shows that dairy-free diets could soon become the dominant free-from trend among millennials.

According to Wayne Greensmith, head of category marketing at Adelie Foods, 12% of shoppers say they want to see more vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. 

“The most important advice for any retailer would be to ensure the range on offer suits the shop’s customers’ needs. 

“Every market segment and area is different, so track what is selling best and get rid of the slow movers. Our top-selling vegan line is Roots’ ‘Pickle Me Up Sandwich’.”

Meanwhile, with the total value of the UK plant-based market worth £443m, demand for meat-free food increased by 987% in 2017 and going vegan is predicted to be one of the biggest food trends this year.

“That’s why in the past year we more than doubled the size of our vegan range,” adds Greensmith.

Supplier viewpoint

Dan Staackmann, founder, Upton’s Naturals

“The multiples are finding value in launching new, up-and-coming brands. They’re seeing that their customers appreciate access to innovative companies entering the marketplace.

“With less approval needed to get a product on shelves, independent retailers have the means to do this on an even grander scale, and their shoppers often come to them looking to learn what’s hot and worth trying. 

“We think independent retailers can learn from their competitors’ shift in priorities and continue to give strong shelf space to the new brands worth taking a risk on.” 

Read more: How retailers can perfect their free-from range