November, 2023

51% of European Meat Consumers Cut Annual Meat Consumption, Report Says

Things are changing in Europe, where we are witnessing an increasing popularity of plant-based products to place foods such as milk, meat, but also yoghurt, sauces, sweets & cakes, and beverages. In recent years, there has been a sharp rise in plant-based products in Europe, with a 21% increase in sales between 2020 and 2022, bringing the total value of this sector to 5.8 billion euro. Against this background, the survey recently conducted by Smart Protein in the report “Evolving appetites: an in-depth look at European attitudes towards plant-based eating“ offers the chance to examine how European consumers have gradually changed their approach to a more plant-based diet. The survey examined the data of 7,500 respondents and consumers from 10 European countries (Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, and the UK). The report covered numerous topics, from the reduction of meat consumption to the transition toward a more plant-based diet, and even the way in which consumers perceive such products and their willingness to purchase and use them. In this article, we will focus on the most interesting points highlighted in the report.

The report shows a slight change in eating habits in Europe, where 45% of consumers have adopted a non-meat-based diet (flexitarians, vegans, and vegetarians) for more than two consecutive years. Among European consumers, identify themselves as flexitarian, in line with the estimate made in 2021.

  1. 51% of European consumers have received their annual meat intake.

European consumers are continuing to reduce their meat consumption, in particular beef and pork, which dropped by respectively 35% and 31% from 2021 to 2023. Of those who took part in the survey, 47% cite health as the main reason for consuming less meat, a trend that can be mainly seen in Italy, Germany, and France. Topics such as animal welfare and sustainability are more felt by consumers who are flexitarian. In particular, Germany is adopting a successful strategy for the reduction of meat consumption, promoting a more plant-based diet, with the integration of plant-based products in supermarkets, schools, and cultural events to make them more accessible and familiar to a wider number of consumers.

  1. A total of 43% of consumers want to substitute

Legumes seem to be the food of choice for consumers when they have to substitute a source of animal protein in their meals. This is followed by a preference for milk alternatives (37%), which have been established in the market for some time, and legume-based products (37%). Meat alternatives are the last on the list (34%). This might have to do with the fact that consumers perceive certain products as unfamiliar and unknown, which means they are not encouraged to purchase and use such products. In the survey, the degree of familiarity with different products was asked, showing that legumes and milk alternatives were perceived as being known and consumed regularly, while the consumption of meat alternatives was less frequent.

  1. Price and taste are still the main barriers to adoption

According to the report, price and taste are still the main barriers to adoption, which also goes to show that taste. In particular, according to consumers who identify as flexitarian, plant-based products are too costly, while taste is still the main problem for consumers who eat all foods. Taste and price in particular are still crucial factors in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, while another important factor in the Netherlands and Romania is the freshness.

It is interesting to note that consumers would like to have more detailed information on plant-based products, and 25% of respondents identified the lack of such information as a barrier to purchase. Romania, Poland, and Spain recorded the highest percentage of respondents who reported a need for more information on plant-based foods. Effective communication on plant-based products is crucial for making these products popular, as brands need to be able to clearly communicate the benefits of consuming these products, in a language that is familiar to consumers.

  1. Consumers want more plant-based sweets and snacks

Among the categories of foods that consumers would like to see more of on the shelves, we have plant-based consumers in Romania would like to see more sweets and snacks, while in Spain the preference is for alternatives to meat and dairy products. Also in the United Kingdom and Denmark, consumers are keen to see a greater variety of categories of meat alternatives. This, in particular, shows a market opportunity for producers of meat substitutes by expanding the range and variety of products to fill an apparent gap in this developing market.

To conclude, the report shows a slow yet constant change in the eating habits of European consumers, who are paying more and more attention to what they ear, reducing meat consumption and adopting plant-based diets. This is encouraged at the legislative and political level, by measures such as the elimination or lowering of taxes on products defined as ‘sustainable’ or which have a positive impact on the planet, as well as the introduction of plant-based products in public institutions, such as schools and hospitals.