Recent findings show that the British consumer is becoming less wary of meat than in recent years. However, the number of ‘meat-reducers’ – people including more vegetarian meals into their diet – continues to grow. Marketing to meat-reducers means highlighting a range of positive benefits, particularly health and taste, to convince them to buy the product.

New research shows that previously rapid growth in the UK vegetarian market has slowed down this year, due to rising consumer confidence in meat. The past few years have seen a number of scares, from BSE to foot-and-mouth, which have caused great concern among consumers. Now, however, confidence seems to be bouncing back – but not completely.

What growth there was in the vegetarian market was based not on consumers converting to vegetarianism, but on ‘meat-reducers’. Those who actively try to limit their meat intake constitute a much larger group of consumers, accounting for 138 million people across Europe. This segment is considerably larger than the vegetarian segment and shows better growth prospects over the next five years.

Datamonitor research has found that the UK and Germany have the greatest proportion of meat-reducers at 46% and 44% of their respective populations. Even countries not noted for their vegetarian segments, such as France and Spain, have significantly large proportions of meat-reducers at almost a quarter of the population each.

Promoting the product’s vegetarian credentials is important, but highlighting key health benefits would be more successful when specifically targeting meat-reducers. In the case of a vegetarian ready-meal, which might tempt a meat-reducer, messages such as ‘low-fat’, ‘natural’ and ‘high in vitamins’ will be instrumental in making the sale. Equally important will be the focus on taste and flavour – meat-reducers are not as dedicated as vegetarians and value flavour over other concerns.

By contrast, if eating an enjoyable meal also happens to be healthier and more ethical, then there are a number of visible advantages that make the product more compelling. Expanding interest in meat-free meals is a growing trend that manufacturers can easily take advantage of, as meat struggles to regain a healthy image in the minds of consumers.

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