Flexitarians’ appetite for plant-based food-to-go continues to grow

Next week’s lunch! trade show will feature a record number of plant-based and ‘meat-free’ innovations at ExCeL London on 19-20 September.  For thousands of UK café, coffee shop, food-to-go operators and retailers looking to cater to the thriving vegan and flexitarian market, this two-day showcase is a ‘must-attend’.

According to Marketing Week, last year, the UK launched more vegan products than any other nation, making it the country’s fastest growing culinary trend of 2018 with a market worth of £310m[1].  With 21% (approximately 22 million people) claiming to be ‘flexitarian’ and one in eight Britons choosing to be vegetarian or vegan[2] – discovering cutting-edge meat-free alternatives, healthier plant-based snacks, and ‘better for the planet’ products is a significant market opportunity for many attendees. 

“I think vegan/plant-based is still where things are at, but more from a flexitarian perspective of people looking to take days off meat or just generally reduce their meat consumption,” says regular visitor and speaker Martyn Clover, head of food at Tortilla.

“Obviously veganism, vegetarianism and lower meat consumption is a critical trend.  Most healthy food trends are becoming embedded now as consumers demand as much flexibility out of home when eating as they can have at home,” agrees coffee market expert and lunch! speaker Anya Marco.

Sowing the seeds of a plant-based future

The UK’s biggest annual trade showcase for the café, coffee shop and food-to-go sector will host a record 400 exhibitors, with around 52% offering vegan or vegetarian alternatives.  From pioneering convenience products to innovative start-ups – it’s these stand-out brands that are helping to shape the future of the industry. 

SHORE The Scottish Seaweed Company, Other Foods, Natural Balance Foods, Agriculture – Ein Harod, Abakus Foods, 5th Season Fruit, Urban Rajah, International Delicacies, Banhoek Chilli Oil Company, Livia’s,  COCO – The Art of Chocolate, Virginia Health Food, B.You Acai, Soylent, Peakz, Munchy Seeds, Precious Pea – Organic Houmous, Mr T.G Pullin’s Bakery, Popcorn Shed, Biogroupe, Batch Organics, Chum Fruit Snacks, Sponge Cakes, Deli Lites, Premcrest Distribution, Boundless, Rebel Kitchen, WorldBake, Plant Pops, Eat Natural, Borna Foods, Little & Cull/Tom’s Pies, and Humble Acre are just a few, of the many, vegan/vegetarian brands to see at the show (see the online exhibitor list for more details at www.lunchshow.co.uk/visiting/2019-exhibitor-list). 

For meat-alternatives ‘leading the plant-based revolution,’ check out LoveSeitan’s new 100g breaded Funky Chyck’n seitan burger, Funky Chyck’n Bites, Facon Bacon and a range of flavoured seitan logs (stand C85); The Jackfruit Company’s range of complete jackfruit lunch meals (stand P82); Qwrkee Foods’ Qwerkee Jerky, made from soy protein (stand A84); and Jack & Bry’s Jackfruit Pepperoni (stand SU-21).

For vegan snacks and sweet-treats galore, find LiQ’s vegan range of liquor infused ice-cream (stand C82); Plant Pops’ new grab and go award-winning popped lotus seed range (stand J83); Lizzie’s Food Factory’s plant-based, gluten free ‘Plus Bars’ (stand Q46); Doughlicious’ new gluten-free and vegan gourmet cookie dough treats (stand Q88); MiiRO Plant-Based’s peanut filled treats robed in a thick layer of vegan chocolate, coated in a crisp shell (stand M41); Mindful Bites’s Panettone range of vegan Christmas cakes (stand J45); and Wholey Moly Foods’ 100% natural, vegan cookies (stand SU-26).

For convenient plant-based hot food, check out Lazy Vegan’s new Indian-style frozen ready meal loaded with fresh vegetables (stand P85); Sam Pan Foods wide range of gyozas and baos (stand N31); and Re:Nourish’s grab and go Digest Soups (stand N43).

For plant-based drinks, discover Huel’s new ready-to-drink format that delivers a nutritionally complete and affordable vegan meal (stand E45); Drink 420’s Elderflower & Lime CBD drink (stand Q33); and humble warrior’s new range of sparkling tonics, made using potent plants (stand L33).

For dairy alternatives, look out for Follow your Hearts vegan condiments, yogurts and cheeses (stand E40), Califia Farms’ ‘plant-powered’ milks and coffee beverages (stand K45), and, for the first time, Applewood’s new ‘easy to melt’ smoky vegan cheese, in collaboration with Heather Mills’ V-Bites (Norseland, stand SU-21).

“I started working with Heather Mills and VBites, to become the first dairy brand to launch into the vegan market, something which was quite brave as dairy is the heart of our business, but we can see the vegan movement happening and it’s not going away,” says Lisa Harrison, senior brand manager at Norseland (Applewood).

“Also, we saw that flexitarians were starting to dip into the vegan food movement, and we speculated that this interest in a plant-based diet would only grow, especially in light of the David Attenborough documentaries and the environmental concerns led by Extinction Rebellion.

“Norseland has exhibited at lunch! for the past five years as it has always been a successful show for us in terms of meeting current and prospective customers and keeping an eye on trends in the industry.  It made perfect sense to launch Applewood Vegan in amongst both innovative and established brands in the food and drink sector,” she says.

Holland and Barrett confirmed to speak at lunch! 2019

As well as an array of products to see and sample, visitors can gain exclusive insights from one of the biggest health food retailers in the UK.  Holland & Barrett’s head of food