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Plant-Based: Unlocking a New Narrative; the Growing Popularity of Plant-Based Alternatives in the UK

More and more people in the UK are choosing to eat plant-based alternatives instead of animal products, for various reasons such as animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and personal health. Plant-based alternatives are foods that mimic the taste, texture, and appearance of meat, dairy, or eggs, but are made from plant sources.

In this blog post, we will explore some of the statistics and facts that show how plant-based alternatives are becoming more mainstream and diverse in the UK.

Who Eats Plant-Based Alternatives and Why?

According to a survey by The Vegan Society, the number of vegans in the UK has increased by 600% in the last four years, from 150,000 in 2019 to 1.1 million in 2023. (Vegans are people who do not consume any animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, honey, or gelatine).

However, vegans are not the only ones who eat plant-based alternatives. Many people who are not vegan or vegetarian also enjoy these products occasionally or regularly, as part of a flexitarian, pescatarian, or reducetarian diet. These are people who reduce their intake of animal products for various reasons, such as health, ethics, environment, or cost.

Health and taste are important factors for many people who choose to eat plant-based products. According to a survey by The Vegan Society, 46% of vegans in the UK said they went vegan for health reasons, while 34% said they did it for animal welfare, and 12% said they did it for the environment. On the other hand, a report by Innova Market Insights found that taste is now a close second to health as a driver to purchase meat alternatives, with 52% of consumers saying they buy them because they like the taste, and 49% saying they buy them because they are healthy.

And the improvement in the quality and variety of plant-based alternatives has contributed to their popularity and appeal.

For example, plant-based meals are now more realistic and satisfying than ever, with brands and supermarket own-labels alike, are offering products that look, cook, and taste like their meaty counterparts.  

And as Plant-based cheeses, such as PlantNation, become more creamy and flavourful, it means that vegans don’t have to miss out on the pleasures of the “cheese” ingredient in their dishes.

Plant-based cheese alternatives come in various shapes and forms, typically using coconut oil or palm oil as the fat content and often formatted, ready to use in grated or shaved versions, depending on the end usage. The guys at PlantNation for example, recommend PlantNation shaved for pizzas and as a topping, as it gives an easy melt and improved functionality. 

So how are Plant-Based Alternatives Expanding into Prepared Foods?

Plant-based alternatives are not only limited to centre of the plate products, but also extend into prepared foods, such as pizza, pasta, ready meals, sandwiches, and more. These products offer convenience and variety to consumers who want to enjoy plant-based meals without cooking from scratch. They also appeal to people who want to try plant-based alternatives in familiar and comforting dishes.

A review of new product activity demonstrates that meat and dairy substitution is on the rise in these markets. For example, between 2018 and 2022, launches of pizzas carrying plant-based and vegan claims rose at a dynamic CAGR of 36%, with main dishes up 23% and prepared pasta and noodles 20%. Even sandwiches are witnessing a rise in plant-based NPD (9% CAGR). These figures compare with a total of 16% CAGR in launches of defined meat substitutes in the Innova database, i.e., burgers, sausages, etc.

Get a piece of the plant-based pizza action….

In summary then, global growth in selected prepared foods subcategories with a plant-based and/or vegan claims (% CAGR 2018-2022) were as follows;

  • Pizza +36%
  • Main Dishes +23%
  • Prepared Pasta & Noodles +20%
  • Ready Meals +12%
  • Sandwiches +9%

Plant-Based: Creating a New Story

What’s Next for Vegan Ingredients?

1 in 3 respondents named “it brings variety to my diet” as a reason that they do consider plant-based products (behind only health and environmental aspects). This shows clear interest in more varied green gastronomy, with the emphasis on products that taste good and are positioned affordably.

As the demand for plant-based products grows, we can expect to see more innovation and experimentation with different ingredients that can offer more flavour and nutrition to consumers who want to enjoy more plant-based foods.

The vegan ingredients industry is constantly evolving and innovating, with new ingredients, formats, and categories emerging to meet the growing demand. Some of the future directions are:

  • Improving the taste and texture, as well as delivering cleaner labels. Consumer research shows that artificiality is still one of the top concerns or barriers to purchase. The development of new technologies will enable more natural and realistic alternatives.
  • Developing more cheese-like products, which are still challenging to replicate with plant-based ingredients. These products will appeal to consumers who want to enjoy the sensory and nutritional benefits of cheese and dairy, without worrying about the ethical and environmental issues.
  • Balancing between vegetable-based and meat-like products, as consumer preferences can differ. Some flexitarians look for plant-based foods that deliver authentic taste experiences, whilst many vegetarians and vegans prefer more vegetable-based foods. The market will need to cater to both segments and offer a range of options.

These are just some of the new and exciting areas which will be used to create plant-based products that are more diverse and delicious than ever.


Plant-based options are becoming ever more convenient and diverse in the UK, as consumers seek to reduce their consumption of animal products for various reasons. Dairy substitutes offer a range of benefits, such as health, ethics, environment, and taste, but they also face some challenges.

The market for plant-based substitutes is evolving rapidly, with new ingredients, formats, and categories emerging to meet the growing demand.

Vegan ingredients are not only replacing meat and dairy, but also enhancing prepared foods, such as pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and more. Vegan products are here to stay and will continue to shape the future of food in the UK and beyond.

For more details on PlantNation grated, please contact [email protected]

SOURCE; Briefing Series | Plant-Based Alternatives | 2023 INNOVA MARKET INSIGHTS


Ornua Ingredients Europe (UK) Ltd

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Spinneyfields Farm, Worleston, Nantwich, Cheshire, CW5 6DN

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Spinneyfields Farm, Worleston, Nantwich, Cheshire, CW5 6DN

Business Registration Number 1933884

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