Plant-Based Foods Continue to Drive Growth for UK Food Businesses

UK consumers are exhibiting a growing fondness for plant-based food during the Coronavirus pandemic, as many adopt a more flexible dietary approach while paying closer attention to their health and nutrition following the Covid-19 outbreak. Supermarkets have recorded substantial sales for plant-based food and beverages during the lockdown, highlighting the shift in consumer preferences towards vegan and plant-based options, largely driven by considerations for nutrition.

Moreover, trademark applications for new vegan food and drink products reached an all-time high last year. The latest data as reported by The Guardian indicates that companies submitted 107 trademarks in 2019 for a diverse range of products, from ice cream to meat-free burgers – a 128% increase from the 47 recorded in 2018 – as consumer demand for vegan alternatives continued to surge.

This ongoing trend is a testament to people’s increasing focus on their diets during the lockdown period, gravitating towards “flexitarian” diets – reducing meat and dairy intake while consuming more plant-based foods.

These new trademark figures have been collated by law firm EMW, which states that the rapidly expanding vegan food category is now attracting the attention of large multinational corporations with the financial resources to invest heavily in branded products.

Two manufacturers – Upfield and Beyond Meat – have trademarked product names based on variations of “Beyond Butter”, “Beyond Cheese” and “Beyond Mince”. Upfield, the owner of Flora, acquired the vegan cheese producer Violife for a reported €500m (£455m) earlier this year.

Discount supermarket chain Lidl has trademarked a range of vegan offerings, including pastries and baguettes, while restaurant chains Honest Burger and Leon have entered the market for meat substitutes and plant-based condiments. Furniture chain Ikea will begin selling “plant balls” – plant-based versions of its iconic meatballs made from pea protein – next month.

Sainsbury’s, which has trademarked its mushroom-based “shroomdog”, reported double-digit growth for its plant-based and meat-free offerings.

Daisy Divoka, an associate at EMW, commented to The Guardian: “Supermarket shelves are now stocked with more vegan products than ever before. Multinational corporations have recognized this as a rapidly expanding sector and are vying to register their trademarks with the aim of securing and defending a share of the market.”

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