Health worries have overtaken cost as the biggest reason for Brits looking to cut down on red meat, with young people particularly concerned with healthy eating.
With fitness trackers and the popularity of fitness on social media, people can now find information about their health at their fingertips at any time.
And it was not just young people who were looking to become healthier, with data from Kantar WorldPanel showing health as a motivation for food choice grows with age.
Speaking at an AHDB Consumer Insight Conference, Kantar Worldpanel commercial director Giles Quick said consumers had a lot of information on health at their fingertips with the rising popularity of fitness trackers.
“When you look at those who say they intend to reduce meat consumption, five or six years ago cost would have been one of the reasons why. Health has grown in importance,” said Mr Quick.
And this interest in health was showing across industries, with 10.7 per cent of adults tee-total, vegetarian meals the fastest growing out of home and sportswear sales growing in a declining fashion market.
About 21 per cent of people were cutting down the amount of red meat they ate, with 38 per cent of these doing so for health reasons.
For young people, meat was still seen as the common core component for most meals, particularly for young males, but there was a ‘growing disenchantment’ with meat and dairy products with emotive vegan marketing affecting perceptions.
Social media provides a constant stream of food imagery and recipes from friends, family, news sources and influencers.
More than half of those aged 18 to 24 get new recipe ideas online and 45 per cent use YouTube for recipes, according to research from Mintel.
And vegans have a significant voice in this space. AHDB research with young consumers showed a rise in the awareness of lifestyle diets, such as veganism, although participation was poor.
Emotive anti-meat and dairy marketing had affected this audience, with respondents pointing to animal rights protests they had seen, the influence of vegan or vegetarian peers and people believing claims such as milk being ‘full of blood and pus’ and containing hormones to keep it fresh.
Poultry was generally seen in a much more positive light than red meat.
For dairy, young people found it easy to replace milk with alternatives as its flavour was not valued enough to be a noticeable loss.
However, on the other end of the scale young people said they would struggle to give up cheese.
While consumers were cutting down on foods seen as unhealthy, they were not cutting them out completely.
Giles Quick gave the example of chips, where people had cut down portion sizes, rather than cut them out of their diet.
But reduction was still a challenge for the meat industry, with the biggest challenge coming from ‘flexitarians’ rather than vegetarians and vegans.
Mr Quick said: “30 per cent of evening meals will happen no to contain meat, fish or poultry.”
As such, he advised the industry to act, but not panic.
The industry needed to offer meal solutions, rather than ingredients.
“Shoppers are increasingly walking into stores to be inspired.”
AHDB head of media and public relations James Wilde suggested it had almost become the ‘accepted wisdom’ red meat was bad for us.
He said: “But for most people, reduction could be detrimental to their health.”
He said AHDB’s work aimed to give people ‘permission to eat’ red meat.
AHDB has launched a ‘Pick Pork’ marketing campaign to tackle the perception of pork as a fatty, old fashioned meat. Promoting it as low in fat encouraged an 8 per cent uplift in volume sales during its Autumn campaign period.
And a complaint by vegan group Viva! about the claim pork medallions were low in fat was rejected by the Advertising Standards Authority.
The levy body was also being more proactive, instead of simply reacting, by offering positive stories to the press linking meat products with health benefits.
Promoting the health benefits was a key target for dairy, with butter growing in popularity thanks to the positivity.
And AHDB said there were things the liquid milk industry could learn from the alternatives in packaging, sensory appeal and shop display of products which were not marketing themselves as a commodity.
Quirky advertising campaigns could be the key to inspiring people to eat more meat, dairy and potatoes.
AHDB and Dairy UK launched the Department of Dairy Related Scrumptious Affairs campaign to appeal to young consumers who may be falling out of love with dairy, using key influencers and adverts to get people excited about dairy.
For potatoes, a ‘more than just a bit on the side’ campaign with Bud the Spud character was launched and a beef campaign was being ‘cheekily provocative to inject excitement and enjoyment back into midweek meal times’, using lines such as ‘fancy a midweek quickie’.
But Mr Wilde highlighted a lot of the work done was ‘invisible to the industry’ as it is not labelled as AHDB.