The plant-based sector is one of the fastest growing food categories in Europe and is currently worth £572M (IRI).

It is expected to grow by at least +74% to £998M by 2026, which will provide plenty of opportunities for plant-based brands to capitalise on (IRI).

The category has seen an unbelievable growth over the last few years, with meat and dairy alternatives predicted to be worth €7.5BN (£6.3BN) by 2025, which is up from €4.4BN (£3.7BN) in 2019 (The Vegan Society).

There are currently 7.2M Brits following a meat free diet, with vegans and vegetarians set to make up a quarter (25%) of the British population in 2025 (The Vegan Society). By the same year, just under half of all UK consumers are expected to consider themselves flexitarians.

Since the start of the pandemic, a quarter (25%) of Brits admit to reducing the amount of animal products they consumed and 20% have also minimised the amount of meat they eat, however, only one in 10 (12%) have lessened their eggs and dairy intake (The Vegan Society).

Research conducted by Upfield, the number one producer of plant-based spreads, cheeses, and creams around the world, reveals that over a third (34%) of Brits see plant-based alternatives as cooking essentials due to their versatility and taste.

According to Kantar, vegan meals now account for one in eight meals prepared in the home. This equates to an additional 350M plates of food that are now vegan-friendly, compared to five years ago (Kantar).

Soups are the most popular choice for Brits when it comes to plant-based meals, followed by pizza, pasta, and Indian dishes.

“Consumers purchasing dairy-free products have historically often been associated with having a dairy intolerance or allergies, however this is changing and plant-based is now very much mainstream amongst flexitarians as well as traditional dairy lovers alike,” comments Sam Thomas, Head of Category, Upfield UK&I.

“Nowadays, consumers do not have to compromise on taste or versatility when choosing dairy-free products. They are often made from simple, natural ingredients and offer additional benefits around sustainability and health. This has started to open the category to new shoppers who were previously less engaged.”

There has been an increasing amount of NPD within plant-based dairy, as Veganuary in 2022, NPD spend is worth £1.4M vs £975K last year (Kantar), which is a +43.6% increase. This currently amounts to 2.7% of total plant-based dairy sales vs 1.8% last year (Kantar). In 2022, more innovative dairy-free products from private labels and animal-based brands are expected to increase their awareness within this category.

After an impressive spike in sales in March 2020, followed by a year of growth, plant-based dairy is continuing to grow when compared to pre-pandemic levels. Nearly a quarter (24%) of Brits bought plant-based dairy this year, which equates to 6.8M households (Kantar).

Free-from BSM is growing at +25.7% YoY mainly driven by an increase in frequency (+21%) in terms of how often people shop (Kantar), this is reflected in sales for Flora Plant, +39.4% (Nielsen).

Free-from cream is rising by +22.4% YoY and is bringing new shoppers into the category (penetration +15%) who are also shopping more often, with frequency +12% (Kantar). Elmlea Free-from, which now has more than 946K buyers, is continuing to increase by +21.1% YoY (Kantar).

Plant-based cheese is starting to set the Convenience channel alight and is now worth £3.3M with a +40.5% YoY. Violife is the market leader driving the segment, accounting for 90% of these category sales (IRI). Following growing public demand, the No.1 snacking cheese brand (IRI), Babybel, is proud to launch the world’s first Babybel Plant-Based.

With insights showing that more than two thirds (68%) of British consumers have considered a transition to a vegan diet, and dairy free alternatives to cheese are growing faster than cheese (IRI), the Babybel Plant-based alternative to cheese is a must-stock for retailers looking to get their share of snacking sales.

Continuing Babybel’s much loved fun, portioned format, Babybel Plant-Based is the latest in Babybel’s NPD pipeline, with products meeting ever-evolving consumer snacking needs.

Catering to all, Babybel Plant-Based is a dairy free alternative to cheese, with a smooth and creamy texture. Made using a Vegan Society approved blend of coconut oil and starch, it is free from artificial colours and preservatives and a source of calcium and Vitamin B12.

Ollie Richmond, Brand Manager at Babybel, says: “We’ve seen overwhelming demand for the development of a vegan friendly Babybel over the years, and with the plant-based market continuing to grow substantially, the new launch is perfectly timed to meet this consumer appetite.”

Babybel Plant-Based is presented in a fully recyclable paper outer bag – with the other elements of the packaging recyclable via Babybel’s TerraCycle scheme. Carrying five alternative-to-cheese snacks, each is individually wrapped in the brand’s iconic wax shells, this time in a bold green, a revamp on the usual red.

Jon Wood, commercial director of Calbee UK, comments: “Many consumers will be seeking free from and plant-based products for 2022, whether it is to meet a lifestyle or dietary need. The demand for great tasting plant-based products is on the rise, particularly among consumers eager to continue Veganuary and embrace a vegan diet throughout the year. Retailers should aim to stock new, exciting and great tasting products to help drive sales and intrigue customers.”

Calbee UK has a range of options from plant-based brands such as Harvest Snaps, to gluten-free, vegetarian friendly and, across some flavours also vegan options, such as the Seabrook crinkle cut range, Loaded Fries and a new Peppa Pig range.

Both Harvest Snaps and our Peppa Pig range are non-HFSS (high in saturated fat, salt or sugar) meaning that they can still be merchandised in promotional display space after the new legislation comes into force this year.

“We wanted to develop a product specifically aimed at kids to help tackle childhood obesity and Peppa Pig, the number one pre-school entertainment programme, is hugely popular with our target demographic of three to six-year-olds,” adds Wood.

Peppa Pig Cheesy Lentil Puffs, just launched under the Seabrook masterbrand, are baked and not fried, are vegan and vegetarian friendly with only 82 calories per 18g bag. Available in a 5x18g multipack with all green and amber GDAs, the tasty new product is perfect for children’s lunchboxes as well as at home snacking.

Seabrook Crisps is growing at +32.2% YOY, outperforming the category which is +3.7% over the last 52 weeks. The brand is also up +36.9% in the last 12 weeks while total Crisps, Snacks and Popcorn (CSP) sits at +2.5%. Now a £74m brand, Seabrook has added an additional 1.8million households since January 2021 and is now purchased by almost 9million UK households. While category growth slows, the brand’s growth accelerates, with Seabrook in over 1 in 2 households in the north of England and over 1 in 3 households in the remainder of the UK (excluding London at 1 in 5).

The Seabrook crinkle cut range is gluten-free and vegetarian friendly with all flavours except Cheese and Onion, Cream Cheese and Chive and Canadian Ham suitable for vegans.

The ‘Loaded’ range, under the Seabrook brand, is now worth almost £4.2m. The baked maize snacks are gluten free, suitable for vegetarians and bring a modern, on-trend twist to everyday snacking. Calbee has a range of Fries which are available in Cheese & Bacon and Seaside Salt & Vinegar flavour, and the newly launched crispy bite-sized Loaded Bites available in Sour Cream & Onion flavour. Loaded Bites are available in a 6x16g multipack, 55g £1PMP and 90g sharing bag and Loaded Fries in a 6 pack multipack, 110g sharing bag and a £1PMP bag.

The innovative new range of plant-based products under the Harvest Snaps brand is the result of extensive research into the ‘better for you’ shopper’s needs. The vegetable and pulse-based snacks provide a healthy alternative to traditional fried crisps and snacks, being baked not fried, with under 100 calories per portion. Available in two flavours, Sour Cream & Chive Lentil Rings and Thai Sweet Chilli Lentil Puffs, Harvest Snaps meets consumer demand with a variety of pack formats including portion controlled six packs, handy single packs and sharing bags. The entire range is vegan and gluten-free with all green and amber GDAs.

“The government proposed ban on promotion of HFSS products provides retailers with a major issue given that there are very few non HFSS products currently available in the snacks market,” says Wood. “An overhaul of ranging and pricing within the category is inevitable to ensure there are products on fixture which meet the new guidelines and will be allowed in feature space; traditional snacks will be required to optimise sales from within the aisle. Products that can achieve this will be the market winners after the changes. We believe that Harvest Snaps not only provides the category with its first plant-based snacking range but is the first to provide retailers with a solution to potential HFSS issues. The new range is in line with the widespread consumer trend towards plant-based alternatives and we have high hopes of it becoming the major player in the better for you category.”

As taste horizons continue to broaden, people are increasingly looking for healthier options with one-third of people looking to eat more fruit and veg as part of a healthy lifestyle (IGD).

That’s why Florette (£44.1m), is urging wholesalers and convenience retailers to enhance their offer to meet shopper demand for more choice in fresh, plant based options.

“Rather than restrictive, calorie controlled diet consumers are making dietary lifestyle changes and moving more towards a varied and natural diet, in which Florette and its stockists are perfectly placed to benefit,” says Polly Davies, Category Controller at Florette UK.

“By stocking a beacon brand like Florette, which is bought by one in four UK households and worth over £7m in convenience, retailers can make a statement about their commitment to encouraging a healthy lifestyle with a strong fresh produce presence into their stores.”

The brand’s core products, Florette Crispy, Mixed and Rainbow Crunchy are together worth over £31m and almost £6m in the convenience channel (Nielsen and Kantar).

The leafy prepared salads maket in convenience is already worth over £77 million (Nielsen) and shoppers are visiting more frequently to purchase leafy salads (+13.5%) showing a growing appetite for the category in convenience (Kantar).

Monisha Singh, as Senior Customer Marketing Manager at Kepak, comments: “The meat-free category is worth £648.4m and is in over 20% growth (Kantar). This rapidly accelerated growth is being driven by flexitarians as consumers seek to reduce their meat intake rather than replace it. This highlights the opportunity for leading brands such as Rustlers to sit within the plant based category and offer alternatives to bestselling products.”

Launched in November last year, Rustlers ‘Meatless Maverick’ mimics the brands bestselling SKU, the Quarter Pounder, providing consumers with an easy swap while behaviourally fitting existing habits, therefore requiring less of a conscious shift while delivering on satisfying taste and convenience credentials.

Price is a crucial factor in any shopper’s purchase decision. Meat mimicking products tend to carry a price premium vs the equivalent meat version, which acts as a deterrent. The Meatless Maverick burger is available at the same accessible price point as Rustlers’ meat products (£2 RRP), appealing to the 52% of people who find affordability a challenge when committing to a food lifestyle (BordBia).

Anne-Marie Cannon, Senior Brand Manager, Cooks&Co at RH Amar, comments: “With more time spent at home, shoppers have not only become more adventurous with their food choices but they also have a greater kitchen confidence – and this includes confidence cooking with plants.

“This increased confidence, combined with more people than ever adopting vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diets, is reflected in the increase in popularity of our Cooks&Co plant-based range of meat replacement ingredients.”

The range includes Cooks&Co Jackfruit and Cooks&Co Lotus Root – the latter of which was launched last year to meet the growing demand for meat alternatives.

“Consumers are also looking for product versatility and usage across different meal occasions,” adds Cannon. “Plant-based products have the versatility to be the star attraction on a meat-free Monday and equally play a supporting role as a meat accompaniment later in the week.”

The increase in time at home, and with it home-cooked meals, has also brought an increased awareness of where and how food comes to our kitchen tables. Shoppers are looking to reduce their meat intake and choosing easy to cook and convenient plant alternatives that can help them make a difference. Cooks&Co Banana Blossom, which is up over 100%, is a fish replacement, and an easy swop for fish and chips. Coat in batter, shallow fry, and then serve alongside some homemade fries and tartare sauce for a plant-based meal.


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