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More than a quarter (28 per cent) of Brits have cut their meat intake over the last six months, with an additional one in seven (14 per cent) interested in doing so in the future, according to new research by Mintel.
The prominent market research company say these stats prove that the meat-free movement is 'no flash in the pan'.
Health is the primary motivator in cutting meat intake, according to the research, with as many as half (49 per cent) of Brits who are interested in or who are already limiting or reducing meat consumption, agreeing that eating too much meat is bad for their health.
The report says: "Meanwhile, weight management (29 per cent) is the second most popular reason for limiting or reducing meat consumption, while concern over animal welfare (24 per cent) and the environment (24 per cent) are equal motivators."
Emma Clifford, Senior Food Analyst at Mintel, says: "Despite the ingrained popularity of meat and poultry, a clear trend has emerged of people cutting back and limiting how much of these products they eat.
"That ‘flexitarianism’, a whole new dietary phrase coined to describe this movement, also highlights its indisputably mainstream status.
"The flexitarian trend carves a very accessible and unrestricted middle ground between simply meat-eaters and non-meat eaters, while acknowledging a conscious effort to eat less meat.
"On top of the various other benefits linked to reducing meat consumption, following a meat-free diet is likely to be aspirational to many consumers and social media is playing an important role in the attraction of this endeavour."
The research highlights a number of campaigns as being particularly effective in encouraging people to ditch meat, saying 39 per cent of meat reducers said the campaigns made them more aware of the benefits of going veggie.
These include Meat-free Mondays, National Vegetarian Week and Veganuary.
In addition, online bloggers and vloggers are also having an impact. According to Mintel: "As many as 16 per cent of Brits say that advice from healthy eating bloggers and vloggers, such as Deliciously Ella and the Hemsley sisters, is encouraging them to reduce the amount of meat they eat, rising to three in 10 (29 per cent ) of those who have already reduced or limited their consumption of meat."
Mintel's Emma Clifford claims that young people are driving the meat-free trend.
"The younger generations are the most likely to be following a meat-free lifestyle," she says. "One in five (19 per cent) Brits under the age of 25 say they do not eat red meat or poultry, rising to one in four (25 per cent) women in this age group.
"And while animal welfare (54 per cent) is the number one reason why non-meat eaters say they avoid meat, for those under 25, environmental benefits is the leading factor.
"Indeed, this group is the only group which is more likely to avoid meat for environmental reasons (29 per cent), as opposed to concerns over animal welfare (22 per cent).
'A number of factors have been at play helping to reverse the fortunes of the meat-free category. Lifestyle trends are helping to broaden the appeal of these products, most notably many consumers are becoming more vigilant about the amount of meat in their diet.
"Increased innovation, with a big new product development push from brands in 2016, and growing mainstream availability of these products, has also underpinned this positive performance."
Maria is a former magazine editor and newspaper reporter. She has specialized in writing content for the plant-based sector for several years, as well as reporting on agriculture, politics and regional news. You can follow her on Twitter @MariaChiorando and Instagram @mariachiorando.
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