A third of Britons now meat reducers

Waitrose report reveals we are an increasingly flexitarian, vegan and vegetarian nation

Aerial view of a veggie meal and people eating

The unstoppable march of the meat reducers continues apace, with news that 1 in 8 of us are now either vegetarian or vegan, with more than 1 in 5 identifying as meat reducers or flexitarians. That means a third of the population is cutting down on their meat consumption or has cut out meat entirely.

The stats were revealed in an annual survey by Waitrose into Britons’ supermarket shopping habits, published a day before William Sitwell stepped down as editor of Waitrose Food magazine over a leaked email mocking vegans.

According to the survey, 40 per cent of the vegetarians and 60 per cent of the vegans changed their diet for the greener in the past five years. That chimes with a recent spike in interest in Britain, with several supermarket chains and food shops launching vegan and veggie ranges, including Iceland and Pret A Manger. The news comes in the same week that Tesco finally started selling the Beyond Burger. The bestselling – because it is impressively meat-like even though it is vegan – burger had been slated to land on these shores this summer, but was delayed due to supply issues caused by its popularity stateside.

Jonathan Moore, Waitrose’s executive chef, said: “Vegetarianism has grown and evolved. More people dip in and out of it. There was a time when choosing a plant-based diet was about taking an ethical stand based on unwavering principles. For many, this distinction between vegetarians and meat-eaters still exists, but for others the lines have blurred.” Rob Collins, Waitrose’s managing director, added: “Being mindful of how we live and eat has become a priority in today’s world. As we become increasingly mindful of our own health, the wellbeing of our family and that of the planet, we’re reshaping how we shop, cook and eat.”

The  proportion of the population who now say they eat mostly vegetables and pulses, and meat only occasionally, now stands at 21 per cent, according to the report, as more people become aware of the environmental damage being caused by the meat and livestock industry. Campaigns such as Meat Free Monday have played a vital role in spreading that awareness, and helping people understand how changing the way we eat can improve our health and that of the planet.

Scientists said earlier this year that going vegan was the best way to safeguard the Earth, while just last month an Oxford University report advised that cutting back on meat consumption was a key plank in the battle for the environment.