Brits might be famed for their love of roast beef and bacon sarnies but a new study has revealed growing numbers are now turning their backs on meat.
Just over a quarter of people – the equivalent of 16 million of the UK population – have started to cut down on the amount they eat, according to customer segmentation specialist Clusters, which carries out research into shopper attitudes and behaviour.
Of those reducing their meat intake, first to be sliced from dinner tables was beef (56%), followed by bacon (47%) and then pork (46%) and lamb (45%). In contrast, just 11% said they were avoiding chicken, which is thought to be healthier.
Using segmentation to uncover the differing motivations behind this move, Clusters found that one group in particular is steering clear of red meat due to health concerns. People in this segment tend to be aged 45-54, shop at Tesco, and usually buy standard product ranges (rather than value or premium). From this group, 69% noted health concerns to be a main motivator in their decision to cut back on meat and a further 37% said they are worried that eating too much red meat will lead to diseases such as colon cancer.
While health seems to be the primary motivation to reduce meat consumption, it was also found to be the main barrier. Interestingly, an equal number of people claim the reason they are not reducing their meat consumption is because they believe it’s good for their health.
These findings follow a number of high profile reports on the link between cancer and high meat consumption. At the end of 2015, the World Health Organization warned that there was ‘convincing evidence’ that processed meat such as sausages and ham caused colorectal cancer.
Managing director of Clusters Chris Cowan, who led the research, said: “Just as we have seen with smoking, raising public awareness is an extremely effective way of encouraging people to make changes to their lifestyles.
“Bowel cancer tends to affect older people, so it is interesting to note that this group is more likely to cut their meat consumption because it indicates that the health advice is working.
“Some supermarkets, like Sainsbury’s, are already trialing innovative schemes in store and online that encourage shoppers to switch their meat-based dishes for healthier, vegetable alternatives. Our research discovered that over a quarter of people would be ‘very likely’ to take part in a rewards programme like this which incentivised shoppers to make the swap. This trend is only likely to grow, so there are real gains to be made for the progressive retailers who stay ahead of the curve.
“This study also highlights the importance of segmentation in determining which groups should be targeted when it comes to health campaigns. The motivations and barriers behind people’s reasons for reducing meat intake should form a large part of any campaign, instead of taking a narrow view and focusing on demographics.”