2021: The Year of Plant 'Meats'?

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What is happening after Fri 1 Jan 2021 without a good trade deal between the EU and the UK?

European and British flags on the end of toothpicks

There are many concerns about food supplies, from fresh food imports rotting in transit, to prices rocketing, and worst of all, more people going hungry more often. The Food Foundation estimate that a family of two adults and two children eating five portions of vegetables and fruit per day could be paying £65 more per year just for this ‘five a day’. We believe that plant-based and vegan-friendly products, especially those grown and made in the UK, are going to be an important part of the solutions to these challenges.

As a small ‘good thing’ to come out of a terrible situation, our research shows that a significant number of people have tried and liked vegan meat alternatives during this difficult pandemic year. About one in five people in the UK cut down on their meat consumption during the first lockdown, and half of them plan to continue eating vegan sausages, burgers and other meat alternatives.

Meanwhile, if the UK doesn't get the right trade deal with the EU, 'meat products' in the UK might be about to get less plentiful, less diverse, less safe and to rise sharply in price in shops.  

These facts and projections suggest that there are significant opportunities for UK manufacturers of vegan meat alternatives in 2021 and beyond.  

We are working to extend our support for vegan products, including for UK manufacturers of plant-based and vegan meat alternatives that we, the animals and the planet so desperately need. Using UK-grown ingredients – including wheat, pea, mushroom, hemp and mycoproteins – could make this opportunity even brighter.  

At the moment, there are a good number of products registered with the Vegan Trademark that use meat protein alternatives that are or could be commercially grown in the UK. The vegan Quorn range is made using mycoprotein which is already fermented in the UK, from maize and wheat. The Moving Mountains range, for example, uses mushroom, wheat, soya and pea proteins, and the Love Seitan range uses wheat, all of which apart from the soya are already commercially grown in the UK. Good Hemp have proven that commercial UK hemp seed production is practicable. The new Hodmedod’s UK-grown chickpea variety offers another potential local ingredient for UK vegan meat alternative manufacturers, as well as the familiar fava bean which we already export in significant quantities (but for feeding farmed animals). 

Heather Mills founded the completely plant-based, vegan-friendly food company VBites in 1993. VBites has already anticipated and started rising to these challenges. In 2019, Mills said, “I have now bought three factories in the North East and I am hoping the food industry supports British manufacturing in light of the situation we are currently in.” VBites already use several sources of plant-based protein which can be commercially sourced from the UK, including wheat, pea, and thanks to Hodmedod’s, chickpea (as well as using soya). 

Now, a new player is vying for the “The World’s Largest Vegan Meat Factory” title. Plant & Bean in Lincolnshire are expanding production capacity to 55,000 tonnes of vegan meat alternative per year, from early 2021, creating around 500 jobs. That’s enough for the needs of well over a million people. The company is planning to expand from the UK to the USA in 2021, and China in 2022. They are also doing plant protein research, aiming to reduce the price of peas and beans by 50%, and identify new commercially viable crops too.

We invite everyone in the UK – especially UK farmers, food manufacturers, distributers, retailers, caterers, and, of course, each of us in our daily food decisions – to embrace the potential of vegan meat alternatives. Our Grow Green campaign focuses upon the potential for farmers and other land managers to transition toward plant-based methods including plant protein crops for direct human consumption. Our Catering for Everyone campaign supports caterers to get the full benefit of vegan-friendly meals centred around plant-based protein for sustainable, healthy food that just about anyone can enjoy. Get in touch to find out how you can use the Vegan Trademark and other Vegan Society resources such as our Catering for Everyone, Grow Green and nutrition resources to take full advantage of the possibilities.

By A C Baker, Policy & Research Advisor

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