Veganuary, whereby people try out a vegan diet for the month of January, has contributed to the increased appetite for meat-free meals, according to analysis by the research group Kantar World Panel.
Plant-based diets are poised to become mainstream this year, the group announced, with 29 per cent of evening meals consumed by Britons in January containing no meat or fish.
Britons’ sustained desire to tuck into veg and two veg is reflected in the chilled aisles: over January, one in 10 shoppers bought a meat-free ready meal, causing sales to rocket by 15 per cent compared to this time last year, Kantar said.
Sales of spinach, cherries and aubergine were also up year on year – by 43 per cent, 25 per cent and 23 per cent respectively.
Analysis of consumer behaviour over recent years indicates that going vegan for January could be the “natural result” of changing attitudes among the public regarding their health, according to Kantar, potentially making the jump to adopting a vegan diet long term less daunting.
Kantar data shows that Britons consumed 3.9bn meat-free evening meals in the 12 months to October 2015.
This rose to 4.3bn in the 12 months to October 2017.
And as a nation we consumed 87m more entirely vegan-friendly meals in 2017 than in 2015, the research group 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,” said Richard Allen, a spokesman for Kantar Worldpanel.
“Our ideas about what’s healthy are also changing – we’re more focussed on foods that are natural and less processed, and eating a varied diet.
“High profile celebrities and social media influencers are also raising awareness and promoting eating less or no meat as a healthy lifestyle choice,” he added.
A spokeswoman for The Vegan Society said: “We welcome the news that more people are enjoying vegan foods, and are experimenting with delicious plant-based cooking.
“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.”
Global sales of Quorn rose by 16 per cent to £205 million in 2017, the largest annual increase since the meat substitute product was launched, the company has announced.
The firm, which is based in North Yorkshire and exports its produce to 20 countries, said sales in Europe shot up by 27 per cent last year.
Bosses expect Quorn Foods to become a billion-dollar business by 2027.