Consumer preferences are changing. One undeniable change is the rapid increase in the number of people adopting a vegan lifestyle. The number of vegans in Britain quadrupled from 2014-2019. A survey by supermarket giant, Waitrose, found that one in three Brits have stopped or reduced their meat consumption and the consumer research group, Finder, predict that 12 million people in the UK will be meat-free by the end of 2020.
According to global data analysts Nielsen, in March 2020 sales of plant-based meat alternatives increased by 280%, and oat milk sales rose by 476%. Meanwhile, sales of fresh meat have fallen and dairy farmers are being ordered to cut production due to an oversupply of milk.
Some of the motivation behind these shifts away from animal products in favour of plant-based foods are covered in Reasons 4-10. The public are becoming aware of the environmental impact of livestock agriculture and how that adds to the current climate crisis. As more and more information on the health benefits of a plant-based diet emerges, an increasingly health-conscious public pays heed. The Corona virus, as a zoonotic disease, has added to this dialogue making people even more cautious about consuming animals. Additionally, as people learn that eating animal products is not necessary for their survival, they hesitate to take or exploit a life for no reason other than gastronomic pleasure. As connections are made, and human conscience evolves, the cognitive dissonance that permitted animal lovers to eat animals is dispersing.
Try as we might to continue with business-as-usual, these changes in consumer preference look set to increase rather than go away.
At a recent Scottish Farm Advisory Service (FAS) conference, we were reminded of these famous words: “it’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most adaptable to change”. The time to change is now. In the midst of chaos and disruption is opportunity. One farmer with 45 acres of vegetables was heard to say, “I love vegans!”.