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UK consumer demand for plant-based food soars in lockdown

2 min read
AUTHOR: Matt Ridout

UK consumer demand for plant-based food grows during the Coronavirus pandemic, as many adopt a more flexitarian diet as they pay closer attention to their health and nutrition following Covid-19. Supermarkets have reported strong sales for plant-based food and drink during the pandemic lockdown, highlighting the shift in consumer demand towards vegan and plant-based foods, mostly driven by concerns about nutrition.

Additionally, trademark filings for new vegan food and drink products hit a record high last year. Latest figures reported in The Guardian reveal that companies successfully applied for 107 trademarks in 2019 for everything from ice cream to meat-free burgers – a 128% increase on the 47 recorded in 2018 – as consumer demand for vegan alternatives continued to soar.

The ongoing trend reflects people paying closer attention to their diet during lockdown, increasingly adopting “flexitarian” diets – cutting down on meat and dairy while eating more plant-based foods.

The new trademark figures are compiled by law firm EMW, which says the fast-growing vegan food category is now attracting interest from large multinational businesses with the resources to invest heavily in branded products.

Two manufacturers – Upfield and Beyond Meat – have trademarked product names based on variations of “Beyond Butter”, “Beyond Cheese” and “Beyond Mince”. Upfield, the owner of Flora, bought the vegan cheese producer Violife for a reported €500m (£455m) earlier this year.

Discount supermarket chain Lidl has trademarked a range of vegan products including pastries and baguettes, while restaurant chains Honest Burger and Leon also entered the fray for meat substitutes and plant-based condiments. The furniture chain Ikea will next month start selling “plant balls”; versions of its eponymous meatballs made from pea protein.

Sainsbury’s, which has trademarked its mushroom-based “shroomdog”, reported double-digit growth of its plant-based and meat-free range.

Speaking to The Guardian, Daisy Divoka, an associate at EMW, said: “There are now more vegan products on supermarket shelves than ever before. Multinational corporations have identified this as a fast-growing sector and are competing to register their trademarks with the aim of capturing and defending a share of the market.”