Studies & Numbers

Research Predicts Radical Change in UK Diets by 2054, Including Rise in Alternative Proteins

Research conducted by the FixOurFood project and the University of York on behalf of supermarket chain Co-op has predicted a radical change in UK diets over the next 30 years.

The research anticipates a significant rise in alternative proteins as consumers become more health-focused and flexitarianism grows in popularity. Urban farming will become more prevalent, and may be used to produce cultivated meat and seafood products. Meanwhile, little-known ingredients such as azolla (aquatic ferns) may become widespread in everything from burgers to pasta. To illustrate these possibilities, Co-op has created a series of AI-generated images of possible future foods.

In the coming decades, rising temperatures may mean that produce such as avocados and olives can be grown in the south of England. Traditional preserving methods such as pickling could see a resurgence as Brits attempt to reduce food waste.

“The last 30 years we have seen scientific leaps into more sustainable produce which were unimaginable to most back in 1994,” said Bob Doherty, Director of FixOurFood and Dean of the School for Business and Society at the University of York. “From lab-grown meat to vertical farming, the future of food is set to revolutionise how we eat.”

Cultivated meat (AI generated). Image courtesy of Co-op.

“Shoppers are calling on us to do more”

The research comes as Co-op publishes the latest edition of its Responsible Retailing report, which indicates that 72% of consumers have become more concerned about ethical and sustainable food in recent years. However, the percentage of consumers saying they would be willing to pay more for ethical and sustainable products has decreased from 62% in 1994 to 54% in 2024, possibly reflecting the current challenging economic conditions.

88% of consumers say they now eat more fruit and vegetables, while 87% choose healthier options than previously. While many respondents in 1994 had expressed concern over whether labelling was clear and honest, 47% now believe it is easy to make sustainable choices based on product labels.

“As a food industry we’ve made a lot of progress, but rightly shoppers are calling on us to do more, with honesty and integrity at the core of our decision making,” said Cathryn Higgs, Head of Ethics, Sustainability and Policy at Co-op. “At Co-op, we remain committed to providing our members and customers with responsibly sourced and innovative food options.”

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