With a larger proportion of the British population classifying themselves as being ‘semi-vegetarian’ than ever before, the inclusion of predominantly flexitarian menus looks set to be one of the biggest food trends of 2016.
Research from the consumer analysts Mintel suggests that over a third of us are actually semi-vegetarians, whether we have realised it or not.
This gradual shift in eating and dietary habits has seen meat-free dishes rise year-on-year recently. Vegetarian-friendly dishes accounting for 31% of all new menu items in 2015.
In addition to this, previous research conducted by the food supplier Vegetarian Express claims that 71% of people would be happy to see traditional veggie options get something of a meat makeover.
Vegetarian Express’ MD Will Matier believes that establishments will have to embrace this foodie philosophy, or suffer the consequences.
“There’s no doubt about it, the vegetarian market is growing. You just have to look at the number of dedicated vegetarian restaurants opening up on the high street to see evidence of that,” he said
“If caterers are to compete, they must offer more choice – not just in terms of the number of dishes, but also the quality of food.”
These comments could be interpreted as a thinly veiled dig at the pub industry. Last October, pub chefs were criticised for failing to look after vegetarian diners, with one high profile veggie advocate even claiming that the majority of pubs should not be trusted when it comes to vegan food.
“I wouldn’t eat in many pubs with a vegan option, mainly because of the chefs’ lack of understanding about cross-contamination,” said Tim Barford, who oversees VegFest.
But why has there been a rise in leafy food options lately? Lucie Green, of the Innovation Group, believes that people’s attitude to diets has substantially changed.
“It’s not about product service or ingredients,” she commented. “[Now], brands and retailers are being assessed on what a product does to the environment, their supply chain, how they treat their staff from production to service, whether their ingredients are natural etc.”