Home » Taste trends: The shift towards plant-based eating in the UK

Taste trends: The shift towards plant-based eating in the UK

What do UK consumers want? ProVeg investigates

As consumer demand for plant-based alternatives continues to rise, governments and businesses around the world are being compelled to adjust to the evolving landscape of food systems.

The UK is a prime example. Recognizing the opportunity, the UK government has allocated nearly half a billion pounds towards advancing food systems.1 Universities and private companies have also shown great interest, with the number of alternative-protein startups and research projects surging across the country. From 2011 to 2021, 863 food-tech companies were established in the country, attracting £2.6 billion in equity investments and £97.6 million in grants.2

These developments are primarily driven by consumer preferences shifting towards plant-based eating. To gain a deeper understanding of this trend, ProVeg produced a series of country-level reports for the Smart Protein Project, called Evolving Appetites: An in-depth look at attitudes towards plant-based eating. Set against the ongoing growth of plant-based food culture in the UK, this article will explore takeaways from the UK report and creative strategies to engage new customers and retain existing ones. 

10 key takeaways from the UK Smart Protein consumer report

1. 48% of meat consumers in the UK say that they have reduced their annual meat intake.

2. 25% of UK respondents view themselves as flexitarian, 7% as vegetarian, 4% as pescatarian, and 2% as vegan.

3. The main motives for reducing meat and dairy consumption are health (48%), the environment (29%), and animal welfare (25%).

4. Respondents in the UK intend to substitute animal-based foods with legumes (57%), legume-based foods (43%), plant-based meat alternatives (39%), and plant-based dairy alternatives (41%).  

5. Price (43%) and taste (37%) remain the key barriers to choosing plant-based alternatives.

6. 74% of consumers in the UK intend to purchase plant-based alternatives from supermarkets, while 31% plan on buying them from discounters.

7. The most requested plant-based alternatives are plant-based meat (35%), plant-based poultry (28%), and plant-based sweets and snacks (27%). 

8. 49% of UK respondents trust plant-based alternatives more than they did three years ago.

9. UK respondents trust plant-based alternatives mostly due to their safety (61%), accurate labeling (61%), and reliability (58%).

10. 72% of respondents are in favor of removing taxes on foods that support a healthier lifestyle, while 70% think there should be improved standards for transparency in product certification.

What has changed since 2021?

When compared with the findings from the 2021 consumer report, four key developments emerge in the UK:

  1. More respondents reported decreasing their yearly meat intake, from 37% in 2021 to 48% in 2023.
  1. More respondents reported following a flexitarian, pescatarian, vegetarian, or vegan diet, from 35% in 2021 to 38% in 2023, with flexitarians showing the biggest increase. 
  1. Taste replaced lack of information as the second-most prominent barrier to following a plant-centric diet in 2023.
  1. 49% of UK respondents said they now trust plant-based alternatives more than three years ago. 

The two reports show significant changes in consumer behavior towards plant-based eating in three years. With an increasing variety of products and innovative strategies developed by plant-based startups and producers to meet consumer preferences, the market for plant-based products is undeniably expanding.

Taste trends: The shift towards plant-based eating in the UK
UK consumers want more plant-based meats, like the mince included in this dish! Source: Unsplash/Fry Family Food Co.

What does ProVeg recommend?

Actionable insights for your business:

1. Address taste and affordability concerns: Recognizing that taste and price remain key barriers to choosing plant-based alternatives, businesses should prioritize product development efforts to improve flavor, texture, mouthfeel, and affordability without compromising quality. Consider investing in research and development to enhance flavor profiles and partnering with local food producers, manufacturers and low-cost retailers to diversify selling points and increase accessibility and affordability. 

2. Give consumers what they want: Optimize consumer demand by focusing on the most requested products – plant-based meat, poultry, sweets, and snacks – and the products and ingredients consumers intend to consume more of – dairy alternatives, legumes, and legume-based foods.

3. Promote health benefits: As the motive for reducing meat and dairy consumption is primarily driven by health, UK businesses should launch educational campaigns to raise awareness and educate consumers about the benefits of plant-based eating, positioning them as enhancers for long-term healthy lifestyles.

4. Build trust and transparency: Given the growing trust in plant-based alternatives, businesses should prioritize transparency in labeling and gaining third-party product certification from trusted organizations to build consumer confidence.

5. Advocate for policy changes: With a significant proportion of UK consumers supporting initiatives such as tax reduction on healthier foods and improved standards for transparency in product certification, businesses can advocate for policy changes that promote a more conducive environment for plant-based eating. Engaging with policymakers and industry stakeholders to advocate for supportive policies can create a more favorable regulatory landscape for plant-based businesses.

By leveraging these actionable insights and strategic approaches, businesses can capitalize on the growing demand for plant-based alternatives in the UK and position themselves for success in the evolving market landscape.

Taste trends: The shift towards plant-based eating in the UK
Source: Unsplash/Aiden Craver.

Download the full UK report here.


  1. Good Food Institute Europe (2023). Sustainable proteins in the United Kingdom. An ecosystem review. Available at:https://gfieurope.org/sustainable-proteins-in-the-united-kingdom-an-ecosystem-review/. Accessed 2024-05-24.
  2.  Beauhurst and Huckletree (2021). Future Insights: The FoodTech Report 2021. Available at https://hs.huckletree.com/download-foodtech-report. Accessed 2024-05-24.

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