Is flexitarianism the diet of the future?

Richard MollerDirector Custom Research
March 26, 2019, 11:11 AM GMT+0

YouGov’s latest whitepaper Is the future of food flexitarian? suggests a mainly plant-based diet with only small amounts of meat is on the rise and could soon become the norm

According to YouGov research 14% of the population consider themselves flexitarians, meaning they only occasionally eat meat. This group are sometimes dubbed “semi-vegetarians”, implying that this lifestyle is just a step on the road to becoming full vegetarians or vegans.

However, our research shows that this isn’t true and that the majority of this group are content with their current diet. They’re flexitarians by choice, not because they’re on a gradual path to totally foregoing meat.

Around three quarters (74%) consider themselves to be healthy eaters and, when it comes to the idea of giving up meat completely, less than half (42%) believe it’s a more nutritious option.

So this balance between being a full-time carnivore and vegetation or vegan is a conscious decision: flexitarians take food seriously. Around half (50%) cook from scratch daily or most days and 72% like to experiment with new recipes —of all dietary groups, only vegans cook from scratch more often.

Going cold turkey

Nowadays, it’s generally accepted that cutting down on, or giving up, meat and dairy is beneficial for the environment —not to mention animal welfare.

But while vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise, meat still plays a huge role in British life. Fish and chips, Sunday roasts, and chicken tikka masala would be hard to sacrifice for many.

This could suggest that softer initiatives such as Meat Free Monday, which asks the public to go meat-free just one day a week, would be more effective than calls for total abstention. More direct or shocking communications could fall on deaf ears in a country where just 4% are currently vegetarian or vegan.

Similarly, attractive options such as Greggs’ vegan sausage roll and McDonalds’ proposed vegan chicken nuggets could be an effective but gentle way to encourage people to experiment with meat-free choices. Even among meat-eaters who don’t consider themselves flexitarians, more than a fifth (22%) regularly enjoy meat substitutes such as Quorn, for example.

The data suggests that meat is not leaving the nation’s shopping lists any time soon. However, we could potentially see a not-too-distant future where it’s considered a rare treat rather than the focal point of every meal.

Image: Getty

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