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UK diet trends 2021
13.7 million Brits will be meat-free by the end of the year.
In 2021, more and more Brits are following a meat-free diet, which means they’ve chosen to become vegetarian, pescatarian or vegan.
With various food subscription services and brands now catering to plant-based lifestyles, adopting a meat-free diet has now become much easier and accessible for Brits too. We carried out our annual survey of 2,000 adults to investigate the diet habits and intentions of UK residents this year, and have analysed the cost of each option as well.
- Currently, around 14% of adults (7.2 million) in the UK are following a meat-free diet
- A further 12% (6.5 million) of the population intend to become vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian in 2021
- Almost 500,000 Brits gave up meat in 2020
- The number of those who gave up meat in 2020 was double that of 2019’s figures
- People following veganism increased by 40% in 2020
- Younger generations are significantly more likely to follow a meat-free diet, with a fifth of Gen Z already doing so (20%) and a further 26% planning to adopt one in 2021.
The UK’s current diet
According to our survey, 86% of the population currently eat meat in their diets. This means that around 7.2 million British adults (14%) currently follow a meat-free diet.
How many vegetarians are there in the UK?
With around 3.1 million people in the UK (6%), the vegetarian diet is currently the most common of the non-meat diets.
How many pescatarians are there in the UK?
The next most popular meat-free diet at this moment in time is the pescatarian diet, with around 2.5 million Brits (5%) opting for this diet.
How many vegans are there in the UK?
Lastly, there are around 1.5 million people in the UK who are currently vegan. A number which is growing rapidly.
|Current diet||% of population|
How the UK’s diet has changed over the last 12 months
While the number of vegetarians and pescatarians has remained very similar to last year, Finder’s research estimates that the number of vegans in the UK has increased by 445,428 people (40%) over the past 12 months.
However, overall it seems that not many were able to stick to their diet over the past year. Of those who said they would cut out meat by the end of 2020, only 9% (500,000) managed to stick to their new diet.
The UK’s dietary intentions by the end of 2021
Numbers are certainly rising for those adopting a meat-free lifestyle. Combined with those who already follow a meat-free diet, there could be 13 million Brits (26%) who are vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian by the end of this year. If those who plan to ditch the meat actually follow through with their plans, around 1 in 10 people in the UK (11%) will be following a vegetarian diet, 8% will follow a pescatarian diet and 7% will be following a vegan diet.
|Intentions by the end of 2021||% of population|
Diet changes over 2021
The diet that will have the most new recruits in 2021 looks to be vegetarianism, as 2.8 million intend to take up this lifestyle.
The biggest change statistically though will be veganism. If the 2 million people who intend to become vegan this year actually do so, the number of vegans will increase by 132%.
The amount of people intending to adopt a pescatarian diet is set to increase the least, both number and percentage-wise, with 1.7 million Brits wanting to change to this particular diet.
|Diet||Number of people who follow this diet||Number of peolpe who intend to follow this diet in 2021||Number by the end of 2021||% change|
Which generations are ditching the meat?
Our studies show that those aged 18 to 23 (generation Z) are currently the most meat-free generation. 20% of generation Z said that they currently go without meat by following a pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan diet. This is a slight increase from last year’s most meat-free generation, millennials (24-42), of which 19% had adopted either a pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan diet.
Generation Z is also leading the way for those intending to adopt a meat-free lifestyle in 2021, with over 25% planning to ditch the meat in this new year.
Only 8% of the silent generation are currently meat-free and only a further 4% plan to go meat-free in 2021, making them the least veggie generation.
|Generation||% ditching meat in 2021|
|Generation Z (18-23)||25.9%|
|Generation X (43-54)||14.8%|
|Baby boomers (55-73)||5.2%|
|Silent generation (74+)||4.2%|
Are there gender differences when it comes to diet?
The survey found that there are currently 262,000 more men than women who don’t consume meat (7.2 million vs 7 million). Similarly, more men than women are planning to go meat-free this year (13% vs 11%). If those who intend to go meat-free stick to their plans in 2021, there will be almost 1.2 million more men than women adopting a meat-free lifestyle this year.
|Gender||Already meat-free||Planning to go meat-free|
The cost of each diet
Many people embark on a new diet for health and lifestyle reasons but often forget to think through the financial implications of the change. The reality is that what you eat can have a direct impact on your wallet.
It’s good news for vegetarians, who have a diet that’s 26% cheaper than a meat-inclusive one. This means they can save an extra £457 every year. It’s not so great for vegans, who have the most expensive diet overall, coming in at £2,073 annually. Interestingly, a pescatarian diet is only £29 cheaper per year than a diet that also includes meat.
|Diet||Cost per year|
|Diet that includes meat||£2,002|
When you look at the costs on a national scale, you can see the huge financial impact of changing consumer trends. If everyone followed through with their dietary plans in 2021, Brits would spend a total of £7.4 billion on vegan diets, £8.1 billion on pescatarian diets and £9.2 billion on vegetarian diets over a year.
A total of 2,000 people were questioned throughout Great Britain, with representative quotas for gender, age and region.
The research was conducted in December 2020.
The cost of each diet was calculated using the BBC Good Food balanced diets.
For each diet, breakfast, lunch and dinner over a week was averaged to get the daily cost.
The cost of each meal was calculated based on Tesco single serving costs of ingredients.
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