In a new study led by the University of Surrey, researchers set out to analyze changes in supermarket sales of meat products and plant-based alternatives. The analysis revealed that the average weekly sales of plant-based foods increased by 57 percent, yet without a reduction in meat sales.
“Efforts to reduce meat consumption have remained absent from the UK political agenda to date, but the need to shift to lower-meat diets is gaining traction in wider society. Veganuary, an annual campaign which encourages individuals to adopt a vegan diet for the month of January, is an example of a civil society initiative to support consumer diet change,” explained the study authors.
The research was focused on UK supermarket sales during the “Veganuary” period in January 2021. The experts compared these figures to sales before and after the campaign.
“Our study suggests that while retail-led campaigns are driving increased sales of plant-based foods, we are not yet seeing meat replacement at scale, which is key to drive progress toward healthy, sustainable diets,” said study lead author Joanna Trewern.
“Retailers have an important role to play in enabling the adoption of healthier, more sustainable consumer diets. It’s great to see them taking action, but more is needed to reduce our reliance on meat and dairy.”
The team found evidence that the retailer’s efforts to make plant-based products more affordable were effective, as the increase in plant-based food sales was the greatest in low-income areas and superstores.
Currently in the UK, individual meat consumption far exceeds the government’s recommendations. The National Food Strategy has proposed a 30-percent reduction in meat consumption to support the nation’s commitment of reaching Net Zero by 2050.
“For there to be any chance of meeting UK climate change targets, government, food companies, civil society, scientists, and health professionals need to work together urgently to implement action plans and policies that can deliver swift and sustained change,” said Trewern.
The study is published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.
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