In the wake of the ongoing horse meat scandal in Europe and the UK, producers and retailers of vegetarian meat alternatives have noticed a spike in sales. Quorn, the UK’s biggest vegetarian ready-made brand, reported that they had seen their business more than double since the last half of February and its has had to add shifts to its factories to keep up with demand.
For years, doctors and nutritionists have been trying to find ways to encourage their patients to eat less red meat and more vegetables. It seems that an old fashioned contamination scare can do more to change the habits of eaters than simple advice and health campaigns.
Quorn isn’t the only company benefiting from the recent outcry over tainted processed meat. South African brand, Fry’s (which sells frozen veggie sausages) has seen a 30% increase in sales since February, outpacing its growth over the last few years by nearly three times. German brand, VeggieDay said that since their recent launch, sales had been higher than originally forecast and that they have received so much sudden interest from retailers that they were forced to move their development schedule up by six months. UK grocery chain Asda has noted that other specialty brands, such as Findus and Birds Eye have also become more popular.
Even overlooked brands have suddenly become more attractive to consumers. Cauldron Foods, a division of Quorn, saw their sales jump six percent after months of stagnant growth. Lisa Drummy, the UK importer of Fry’s, mentioned that she had been contacted by supermarkets after years of no communication. While many understand that the burst in sales may be a short-lived reaction to a food scandal, the horse meat debacle has highlighted the high price of animal protein, particularly red meat. As beef prices continue to rise due to the enormous amount of resources required to raise and process meat, shoppers may begin to turn towards vegetable -based fare to keep their stomachs and pocketbooks full.
“Over time beef is going to become more of a luxury,” said Kevin Brennan, the chief executive at Quorn. “People probably won’t continue doing what they are right now but I do think there is genuine potential that they could shift away from meat. It’s not about giving it up altogether but reducing consumption.”
However, totally meat-free meals still have some obstacles to overcome. A YouGov poll commissioned by Quorn found that only 15% of people said that they were more likely to consider an alternative to meat due to the crisis. Even though Quorn sales have seen an improvement, Asda reported that overall vegetarian meals have begun to plateau. According to the research group Mintel, only 6% of the UK population is vegetarian, and 13% choose to avoid red meat. The question remains whether the shift in dietary habits is a long-term trend, or just a flash in the frying pan.
Via The Guardian