In certain countries that were formerly major meat consuming countries, the meat market is in decline. This is due to a number of factors, from environmental concerns to personal health choices. Despite the growing number of vegans and vegetarians, the bulk of this decline is from people simply cutting down on their meat intake, without completely abandoning animal-based products.
While many may describe themselves as ‘flexitarian’ it could be used to describe many peoples diets, especially those in more urban environments. For example, market intelligence agency Mintel said that in 2021, 50% of British people were eating meat substitutes (not necessarily cutting out meat, but choosing substitutes as an accompaniment).
This number skewed heavily toward younger age groups, with 65% of the 16-24 bracket seeking out meat substitutes, while only 26% of those in the over 65 bracket were making similar purchasing decisions.
What is Flexitarianism?
The phrase was coined by dietician and author Dawn Jackson Blatner in her 2009 book The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life. In 2009, plant-based diets, particularly veganism and vegetarianism were starting to gain mainstream traction in a way not seen before.
Blatner created a diet that was, as the name suggests, very flexible. The aim of the diet was to include more foods rather than restrict one’s diet. The food groups Blatner outlined that should be included in your diet are non-meat proteins (beans, peas or eggs), fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy and seasonings (spices and herbs). The diet could be altered based on your age, BMI, personal dietary restrictions etc.
Unlike subscription-based diets, there’s no membership fee you need to pay in order to stay abreast of a program. The book has enough advice, recipes and meal planners to get you started. With a focus on home cooking and inexpensive ingredients, The Flexitarian Diet is actually a great read for anyone who wants to cut down on meat and focus on healthy eating.
While growing concern regarding climate change was one of the driving factors behind this blossoming consumer movement, Blatner focused on the vast improvements in health that could be seen by choosing meat-free meals without sticking to a hard diet. Back then, choosing to cut down on meat was more of a choice one made for oneself, and so the term ‘Flexitarian’ needed to exist.
Flexitarianism and Statistics
Nowadays there is much more pressure to choose this way of eating, so much so that many accept it as a norm rather than the exception. For this reason, it’s harder to track particular statistics within the ‘flexitarian movement’ than it is to track statistics around diets like veganism and vegetarianism, both of which have a solid identity built around them.
Instead, we can look at various indicators of plant-based food’s success in the US and abroad. Here are some telling examples:
German market and consumer data company Statista has projected that the global plant-based meat market is projected to reach $16.7 billion in 2026 – a whopping 247% increase from 2020s $6.67 billion.
Between 2020 and 2021, the number of vegans worldwide doubled from 0.5% of the global population to 3%. This means that friends and families of Vegans who are not themselves vegan will be more likely to adopt Semi-Vegetarian or Flexitarian diets so as to accommodate them.
Audience targeting company GWI found that 500,000 people participated in Veganuary – a trend whereby people who have not previously been plant-based go vegan for the first month of every year. That means half a million people made a drastic move toward Flexitarianism in the year 2021.
Flexitarian Trends for 2022
Although the last two years have proven how hard it is to look into the future of food trends, the Covid-19 pandemic has seen a rise in new ways of thinking and eating that are here to stay.
Let’s look at the Flexitarian trends that could arrive in force in 2022.
Loving Local Produce
Consumers are becoming far more aware of the dangers of importing food. The fear of ‘the next pandemic’ has seen food-related headlines take front page news, where in the past they’d have been ignored or overlooked. From signs of a resurgence in avian flu in China, to Mad Cow disease raising its ugly head in the UK, people are looking to local suppliers for meat and vegetables.
Shopping from local farmers means there’s less meat available, and it’s probably therefore more expensive. Local meat suppliers often focus on free-range, pasture-reared meats from animals who are properly cared for. This means local meat is a more ethical choice. Locally produced veg also cuts down on the carbon emissions generated from ships and cross-country freight trucks.
All in all it looks like more flexitarians will be looking to buy local in 2022.
While this is a concern that reaches beyond the food market, Forbes has reported that the use of plastic-free packaging has become a race for supply-chain solution companies. Using natural polymers from farmable products like seaweed is becoming a major option for both small food suppliers and large global fast-food chains.
Flexitarian ideals cross the boundaries between food and other lifestyle choices. Consumers are more likely to buy the locally made produce they want if it’s packaged in a sustainable way. It even influences clothes purchases, with the Vegan meat market looking to overtake animal-based leather by as early as 2025.
An Even Wider Range of Milk Substitutes
Gone are the days of “Almond Milk or normal milk”. While Oat and Nut milks have been all the rage for the past 5 years, food scientists are looking for cheaper solutions that focus on a zero-waste mentality while delivering a creamier, more “milk-like” substitutes.
Milk made from left-over barley wash (a by-product of beer making), as well as potato-starch based milks are going to see a major rise in popularity based on their lower price points and novel appeal. If they’re good enough to stick there may be a move away from nut-based alternatives which can cause environmental harm both in their farming practises and international shipping.
A Great Time To Go Flexi
If you’re looking to cut down on your meat consumption in 2022, you’re far from alone. Be sure to keep abreast of new trends, stats and tasty recipes as you move toward a new year of conscious eating.