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Almost half of all European consumers are now eating less meat, a new poll has found. The survey, conducted as part of the EU-backed Smart Protein Project, also revealed that 40% of consumers in Europe are planning on reducing their meat consumption in the future.
A new pan-European survey from ProVeg International and Innova Market Insights has revealed shifting attitudes towards plant-based diets. According to the poll, 46% of respondents have already cut their meat consumption, with just under 40% saying they plan on doing so in the future.
More than 7,500 people were surveyed, which spanned across 10 European countries, including Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, and the UK. Researchers from University of Copenhagen and Ghent University were involved in the study, which is backed by the EU’s €10 million Smart Protein project.
‘Significant’ plant-based shift in EU
Aside from eating less meat, more consumers in Europe are also looking to reduce their dairy consumption. Around a third (30%) said they plan to cut their intake of dairy products in the poll.
Of the cohort, around 30% now self-identify as flexitarians who actively minimise their meat and dairy consumption. 73% of this group reported having “substantially” reduced their meat intake over the past months.
These results come after the Smart Protein project released its industry report earlier this year, which indicated that the plant-based food industry in the EU had grown 49% over the past two years, propelled by record demand from European consumers.
Speaking on the latest survey findings, ProVeg vice president Jasmijn de Boo said: “The survey suggests tremendous potential for plant-based foods in Europe and gives a green light to all relevant players in the field to develop more and better products.”
“Consumer demand for alternative proteins is growing at a remarkable rate, with no end in sight,” de Boo added.
Flexitarians want vegan poultry, mozzarella and fish
In terms of consumer perception of existing plant-based foods on the market, many respondents noted that there are not enough choices in supermarkets and restaurants. 45% of flexitarians said they would like to see more vegan dine-in and shopping options, and 50% think the current prices are too high.
While potatoes, rice, lentils, almonds and chickpeas are the most popular choices for flexitarians, the survey revealed that they are now looking for greater plant-based innovation for products such as plant-based poultry, salmon, and tuna.
In the alternative dairy sector, flexitarians, many of whom were motivated by taste and health, said they would like to see more plant-based mozzarella and vegan sliced cheese land on shelves.
“European consumers’ appetite for plant-based foods is here to stay, as shown by the number of Europeans who say they want to eat more plant-based alternatives to dairy and meat in the future,” commented Vinciane Patelou, director at ENSA-European Plant-based Foods Association.
With the poll finding around 60% of flexitarians believe that current plant-based products are already accurately labelled, Patelou added that the EU “must not lag behind” in setting up a regulatory framework for vegan foods that “should help guide consumers towards these products.”
Plant-forward diets go mainstream
The poll results from the EU align with other survey findings around the world that also show a major shift towards plant-based diets. In the UK, one survey has found that around 20% of the population will be eating vegan or vegetarian this Christmas, with 60% of this group only having made their plant-based transition within the past four years.
Globally, a study from Euromonitor finds that around 4 in 10 consumers now consider themselves flexitarians. The younger population is much more likely to be embracing a plant-based diet, with 54% of Gen Z respondents saying they avoid animal-based products, compared to 34% of baby boomers.
For GFI Europe policy manager Acacia Smith, the trends are a positive sign demonstrating the “soaring demand for plant-based options”, but noted that much more remains to be done to overhaul the food system and its burden on the climate.
“It will take further research and development to achieve the full potential of these foods to cut emissions and relieve pressure on ecosystems,” Smith explained. “If they are serious about meeting their climate targets, world leaders must invest in sustainable proteins.”
Lead image courtesy of Thistle.