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Pandemic slows down 'flexitarian' trend

Sales of processed meat jumped as Brits looked for comfort food

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Pandemic slows down 'flexitarian' trend

Covid-19 has curbed the move to eat less meat as people looked for comfort foods during lockdown, with a resurgence in processed meat sales.

 

According to Mintel, the number of Brits limiting or reducing meat in their diet dropped from 51 per cent to 41 per cent in 2020. But sales of processed meat products grew 18 per cent.

 

More cooked breakfasts boosted sales of bacon and sausages while increased homeworking meant more people bought cooked meats such as ham.

 

Stockpiling of canned meat also led to a resurgence in sales.

 

Environmental concerns

 

However, Mintel said there had been a huge increase in the amount of people believing eating less meat was better for the environment, from 25 per cent in 2018 to 42 per cent in 2020.


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Edward Bergen, Mintel global food and drink analyst, said prior to the outbreak, the meat reduction trend was gaining ‘considerable momentum’.

 

“The huge disruption, uncertainty and stress caused by the pandemic have caused a relaxation around some health- and ethics-driven habits among many consumers,” he said.

 

Comfort

 

"It is not surprising that meat reduction has taken a temporary back seat, particularly given the increased desirability of familiar comfort food and that meat is seen to really deliver here.”

 

“The long, hot summer and an increased need to be outside more gave a boost to sales of sausages and burgers through an increase in opportunities for barbecues,” he said.

 

But he expected the setback to be short-lived and he anticipated a flurry of new ‘plant-based’ products would continue to drive sales.

 

Half of all Brits now eat meat substitutes, with 65 per cent of 16-24 year olds eating them.

 

But Mr Bergen said the category’s increasingly mainstream role meant the ‘health halo’ surrounding them and the price were set to come under greater scrutiny.

 

“Although lapsing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the meat reduction movement is expected to rebound. However, meat substitutes must really deliver on the perceived benefits of not eating meat to reap the rewards from this trend.”

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