Researchers say restaurants are removing meat dishes from their menus due to the impact of inflation and the increasing popularity of plant-based foods.
Just 20% of all dishes served at restaurant chains last summer contained meat, according to the latest numbers from Lumina Intelligence, down four percentage points from last spring.
“It’s a significant decrease,” said Katherine Prause, Lumina’s senior director of insight, who said the change was driven by a desire to reduce costs and satisfy customers. The cost of a restaurant dish has risen 7.9% in just three months, and cutting down on expensive ingredients was part of the solution.
“We’re seeing trends around healthy living and around eating less meat, and restaurants are capitalizing on that,” she said. “The advantage is that they can manage costs at the same time because they save on meat and save on portion sizes.”
Only 33% of main dishes at major restaurant chains include meat, and only 12% of entrees, Prause said, citing data from Lumina’s menu tracker, which surveys more than 150 restaurant chains, pub and pub operators. About half of the main pub meals include meat.
The annual pledge to avoid animal products last January, veganism, has grown in importance since it began in 2014, and many people are now adopting a flexible approach to eating, while reducing but not cutting out meat.
Prause said there’s been a debate within the hospitality industry for years about how much restaurants should cater to vegans. “We think it has reached a cap in terms of how much menu share will be given to plant-based alternatives,” she added.
“But we are also seeing an expansion of restaurants that are vegetarian only or with entirely vegetarian menus. There are fine restaurants in London that are now vegan and many smaller and growing restaurant chains based on vegan concepts.”
Last year saw Lewis Hamilton’s Neat Burger venture expand into the US, while Alexis Gauthier, the Michelin-starred chef, will stop selling any animal products at Gauthier Soho in 2021.
Despite the explosive growth in the number of vegan food products, retailers and supermarkets are still unsure if customers should expect to see vegan sausages in the vegan food aisle, or alongside meat sausages.
“Trends tend to start in the foodservice sector and shift to retail, so I think we’ll start to see people cooking more once they get used to the products on the market,” she said.
However, meat alternative products have also been hit by the cost of living crisis.
Mintel found that sales of products such as meatless sausages, toffees and potato chips doubled from £289m in 2017 to £586m in 2021. But sales last year were down 6%, according to Alice Pilkington, A leading specialist in the field of foods and foods. A beverage analyst at market research firm Mintel, though, says 49% of people eat meat alternatives regularly.
“As household incomes come under increasing pressure as the year progresses, the relatively high price of meat alternatives has led consumers to cut back on these products,” Pilkington said.
She added that although much of the focus has been on imitation burgers and hot dogs, there is a gap in the market for “vegan products” such as bean burgers.
Two-thirds of buyers of meat alternatives say they would be more likely to try non-meat products.