“The London Produce Show and Conference”, a platform for farmers and suppliers, took place from June 6th to 8th 2018. For the second time, the conference included the “Foodservice Forum”, at which speakers and panelists from prominent companies and the British catering industry discussed new trends. An important topic was plant-based nutrition.
Simon Stenning, Executive Director of MCA Insight, was responsible for the facts and figures. Referring to the MCA Menu & Food Trends Report 2018, he pointed to the continuing growth of vegetarian and vegan meals in UK restaurants. “When we look at the labelling of the menus we see an increase in the number of dishes marked as vegetarian. And there are more than twice as many dishes that are described as vegan,” says Stenning. Other speakers also referred to studies on this topic. Lin Dickens, Marketing Director of Bartlett Mitchell, mentioned the 2017 Mintel Meat-Free Foods UK Market Report, which states that more than a quarter (28 per cent) of meat-consuming British people reduced their meat consumption in the six months up to March 2017.
Generation Y as Driver
Another key topic of the panel discussion was the question of identifying the main target group. At the beginning of the discussion, Generation Y was highlighted by Rob Kirby, chef at Lexington Catering, and Andrea Waters, Creative Director & Executive Chef at Redemption Bar, as the consumer group leading the Flexitarian movement. Most vegans are to be found in the younger target group (the 15- to 35-year-old). But when asked why consumers in general would choose a plant-based diet, the participants disagreed, citing health and sustainability as the most important reasons.
Nevertheless, everyone is certain that the trend towards plant-based nutrition will continue. “Young people are much more aware than we are of global problems, their own health and the issue of sustainability. They all talk about it, and that will continue. These are our customers of the future, and companies must listen carefully,” says Waters.
Approval from Many Areas
To get an extensive view of the development, people from all sectors of the nutrition world were invited. In the gastronomy sector, many chefs described a shift towards more plant-based foods on their menus. “Even star restaurants in the UK are witnessing a changing customer base that is aware of their eating habits,” said Thomas Rhodes, Executive Chef at Twickenham Stadium in southwest London. The range of vegetarian and vegan options has also increased in the hotel and catering industry. Andy Craig, Head of Fresh Food at Sainsbury’s, also had his say. He explained the steps taken by the second largest British supermarket chain. “Flexitarianism is a massive trend,” confirmed Craig, emphasising that food retailers must also remain relevant to today’s consumers. “It’s exciting for us, it’s about offering a variety of products.”
Most participants agreed. Plant-based food has become an integral part of the menu throughout the UK, driven by consumer awareness of their own health and global sustainability.