Once just the stronghold of small, alternative vegan companies, the meat-free market is now dominated by mainstream companies, including those that make most of their money from meat, and private equity companies who might see meat-free companies as a profitable investment in the current climate.
In 2021, sales of meat-free products rose by 16% to £660 million, with the greatest growth in sales of tofu. But there’s still a long way to go – the beef market alone was worth £2.4 billion! And while UK consumption of red meat has gone down over the last decade, poultry consumption has risen.
But overall, people in the UK are eating less meat. In 2022, YouGov found that 2-3% of respondents said they were vegan whereas in 2019, the Vegan Society estimated that just over 1% of the population were vegan.
YouGov found that 88% of people were vegan for animal rights reasons, 79% for environmental reasons and 40% for health reasons.
What’s in this guide to meat-free alternatives?
This guide covers ready-made meat alternatives and includes products designed to taste, smell and look like meat (appetisingly called ‘meat analogues’ in the trade). It also covers products like tofu, falafel and vegetable fingers which can be used as meat replacements, but in general are not marketed as being analogous to meat.
Meat analogues aren’t confined to burgers and sausages but include mince, bacon, chicken breast, and even fish fillets and prawns (see the table further down of who makes what).
We have not included supermarkets on the table for space reasons, but our last guide to supermarkets can be found online or in EC194. In that guide, Co-op and Waitrose were our recommended buys. Co-op’s GRO range and Waitrose’s Plantlife and PlantLiving range are all vegan.