While few Canadians are vegetarians, meat alternatives are gaining in popularity among consumers overall, according to new research from Mintel. The study, Meat Alternatives Canada 2018, found that more than half of Canadians (53%) say they eat meat alternatives, including one in five (18%) who claim to eat meat alternatives a few times a week.
When asked why they use meat alternatives (e.g. meatless burgers or sausages), the top reason was they want to eat less meat overall (35%). “This speaks to the notion that we often hear about around having a flexitarian diet,” says Joel Gregoire, associate director, Canada Food and Drink Reports at Mintel. “That doesn’t mean people want to go cold turkey on meat. They’re going to moderate how much meat they’re taking into their diets, for various reasons.”
Other reasons cited for eating meat alternatives are the cost of meat (26%), watching weight (26%), animal welfare (22%), easier to digest (22%) and environmental consideration (20%).
For manufacturers, meat alternatives represent a big opportunity. Global meat substitute launches nearly doubled between 2013 and 2017, according to Mintel Global New Products Database. While Germany leads the way, accounting for 11.9% of global meat substitute launches in 2017, Canada accounted for just 1.4% of launches in the same time frame.
“When you look at the global share of launches, it’s fairly low in Canada, so there’s opportunity for growth,” says Gregoire. “What we also see with Canadian [meat] companies—Maple Leaf Foods comes to mind—is a real sense of mission in terms of making sure they’re providing consumers with meat alternatives.”
Since 5% of Canadians are vegetarian and only 2% eat vegan diets, the real opportunity extends beyond consumers who avoid meat, to those who enjoy meat but want other options, according to the report.
Though meatless burgers (34%) and meatless poultry (32%) are the meat alternatives Canadians are most likely to consume, other meat alternative types are gaining traction. One quarter of Canadians say they have eaten meatless hot dogs (27%), meatless deli slices (26%) and meatless bacon (23%).