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Where the UK sits in the European plant-based industry

We spoke to Jonathan Morley, Managing Director at Plant Based World Expo, about a recent report into the European Plant-Based Market and the opportunities it presents to the UK. The research by Vegg2food demonstrates the breadth of the plant-based food market across Europe.

“On the whole, the data shows the market is growing with Germany and the UK leading the way in terms of innovations, holding 15% and 14% of the market share respectively,” says Morley.

Driving this demand is an increase in flexitarians, vegetarians and vegans, sparked by three major factors: people seeking a healthier lifestyle, environmental concerns and animal welfare.

While the UK is a leading player when it comes to volume of new innovations, there is still a long way to go until the market reaches its full potential. And there is a lot to learn from our continental counterparts which could get us there.

“Germany is a great example as it’s a nation that has embraced plant-based eating in all areas of society,” Morley points out. “Its focus on ecology education has led to a keen awareness of planet preservation, animal welfare and organic food which is nurturing a growing plant-based food sector. As a result, sales of plant-based foods in Germany increased by a staggering 97%, to 817m Euros between 2018 and 2020 – the biggest growth in Europe. To compare, the UK market grew by 73% in the same time.”

Part of this growth can be attributed to retailers in Germany offering a wide variety of products, making it easy for consumers to make the switch. While most UK supermarkets offer plant-based ranges now, there are still significant gaps in the offerings which can turn modern shoppers away if they can’t find what they want and/or need.

The report also demonstrates how far the plant-based market has evolved in Europe. Gone are the days where plant-based options consisted primarily of meat-free burger patties. “Vegan and flexitarian consumers are looking for a full culinary experience at home, without compromise,” adds Morley. “So, if they want a burger, they also expect a choice of patty and to be able to buy dairy-free cheese, condiments and brioche buns to accompany it. This holistic thinking is what is driving sales across the European market, and this is where the UK retail market still needs to catch up.”

There’s plenty of innovation to help plug the gaps that retailers should be capitalising on, including new products covering the ‘whole cuts’ category from companies including Meatless Farm, new desserts such as ice cream bars from Healthy Leaf, and tasty condiments from innovators like Hlthpunk – all of which can be seen at this year’s Plant Based World Expo (November 30-December 1).

The global vegan snacks market is expected to be worth $80bn by 2030, according to Grand View Research Inc. Currently valued at over $44bn, the category is expected to register a compound annual growth rate of 6.9% between 2022 and 2030.

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