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Battle for the Meat-Free Category

Battle for the Meat-Free Category

By Jacqui Rudd

The supermarket landscape is changing as retailers up their plant-based game. New products are launching every month to attract the attention of vegans, veggies, and meat reducers in an attempt to win the battle for the meat-free category. The battleground has been marked and everyone wants a piece of this plant-based world. According to Kantar, over the past year meat-free and vegan products sales have increased by 14.3% adding £44.1m to the category taking it to £352.1million.

Supermarkets have been battling it out for the meat-free category, launching new products and ranges, which has mainly been driven by a 6.5% rise in shoppers buying meat-free products. Supermarkets are trying to capitalise on this rise in consumer demand for plant-based food, and Kantar published that Sainsbury’s and Tesco combined account for over half of the meat-free sales.

But how are stores merchandising this new boom in plant-based foods? Are supermarkets extending their meat-free shelf space? Well yes and no, there is no single method that has been used, some supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco are testing some of their meat alternatives in the meat aisle, while others such as Waitrose and Iceland are keeping them strictly separate in dedicated meat-free sections in stores. This does raise the question, could a lack of a unified strategy leave consumers confused?

But it’s not just supermarkets who have been adding to the plant-based food options, brands account for nearly 55% share of the market. There has been high activity from small and large brands launching new ranges of plant-based products. Brands launching new products in recent months include: Linda McCartneys, Magioni, White Rabbit Pizza co and Kristys. There have also been innovative collaborations to launch new ranges, such as with Dr Oetker and Ristorante. Yorkshire sausage makers Hecks are even getting involved in the plant-based market, they have converted an old production plant into a vegan-friendly factory and are producing new ranges of sausages.

Just last week a new plant-based innovation from the US hit the UK, as bleeding vegan burgers arrive on Tesco shelves from Beyond Burger. Beyond burger is made entirely from plants, does not use animal stem-cells in production, and is not tested on animals. Each contains 20g of pea protein, coconut oil, potato starch and uses beetroot juice to ooze or “bleed” a meaty appearance.

New Startups are trying to ‘reinvent’ a meaty meal, and with technological advances could our future be meat-free? Lab-grown meat and food-tech companies in the US are showing that applying science to what we eat can save the world and make money. But only time will tell if this new innovative method can really deliver safe, tasty, cheap food on a large scale with minimal environmental footprint and play a role in saving our planet.

This level of innovation shows how quickly this market is growing and that brands are keeping up the necessary action to compete with the supermarkets’ attention on plant-based. However, with so much competition, brands need to really be something different and special to compete and avoid being a casualty as this market grows.

Read The Grocers plant-based category report 2018.

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