Almost a third of January meals were meat free

Research shows greener eating hit the spot last month and is on the rise generally

Delicious, colourful vegan dinner – overhead view of communal table and friends sitting together and sharing a vegan meal – potatoes, pizza, falafel and salad

A meat free start to 2018 should be reward enough for anybody, but a report from market research company Kantar Worldpanel has us positively beaming: it has found that more than a quarter and almost a third of the evening meals consumed in the UK during January were vegetarian or vegan.

Twenty-nine per cent of dinners served in the 12 weeks to the end of January contained no meat or fish, according to the analysts, who based their research on data from a consumer panel of 30,000 British households. They say this is down to eating habits being affected by “sustained interest” in the meat free eating.

The research shows that meat free eating is on the up and up. In the 12 weeks to January 2014, 26.9 per cent of evening meals were meat free, rising to 27.8 per in the run-up to January 2016. These heartening stats are borne out in data from the shopping aisles: in the first month of this year, one in 10 shoppers bought a meat free ready meal (up 15 per cent over the same period in 2017); over the year to January, spinach and aubergine sales rocketed 43 per cent and 23 per cent respectively compared with last year; and Quorn Foods has seen global sales rise by 16%.

Richard Allen, a spokesman for Kantar Worldpanel, said: “The surge in vegetarian evening meals over the past year is down to the wider availability of products which make eating meat free more attractive and practical. Our ideas about what’s healthy are also changing – we’re more focused on foods that are natural and less processed, and eating a varied diet.”

The findings for the month chime with longer-term results charted by Kantar, which found that while 3.9 billion meat free meals were consumed by peckish Britons in the year to October 2015, that figure had risen to 4.3 billion in the year to last October. The number of vegan meals eaten was up by 87 million over the same period. Veganuary played an important part in persuading people to change their diets for the greener. Those taking part in the annual campaign are encouraged to give up all animals products for a month, but many of the 160,000 people who took part this year will have continued eating vegan well beyond January.

A Vegan Society spokeswoman said: “People are waking up to the fact that a meal can be free from animal products while also being healthy, delicious and satisfying. The more people who embrace this lifestyle, the better the impact on the animals, the environment and our health.”

The Kantar Worldpanel research comes hot on the heels of a highly successful January for meat free eating, with news that Tesco had launched a range of vegan ready-meals and two vegan pubs opened their doors in London.