Meatless meat is one of the fastest-growing categories of plant-based food globally, growing at a rate of 28% annually. Financial firm UBS, predicts the industry will be worth $85 billion by 2030.
It’s no surprise, then, that an increasing number of companies want to get in on the action. In the UK, there is now a range of brands offering plant-based foods designed to mimic the flavour and texture of meat.
But with so many new entrants to the market, we wanted to find out who’s winning share of mind when it comes to meatless meat. Which brands do UK consumers think of first – and how likely are they to buy from them?
To dig into brand awareness around plant-based meat, we carried out a nationally representative survey of 250 working-age consumers that have heard of meatless meat.
Unprompted brand awareness of meatless meat
To get an unbiased view of the meatless meat brands making an impression on UK consumers, we asked respondents to name any they could think of.
Although it’s not part of the new generation of plant-based meat brands, Quorn is far and away the most well known vegetarian/vegan food brand (about 50% of respondents mentioned Quorn by name).
It figures, given it’s been around since 1985, and has pretty much become a byword for non-meat. Quorn have also enjoyed social buzz thanks to their collaborations with Greggs on the Vegan Sausage Roll and KFC on the Imposter Burger (now just called the KFC Vegan Burger).
Linda McCartney is another “heritage” meat-free brand that enjoys substantial share of mind – the brand was named by 19% of respondents. The brand launched a KFC-style Vegetarian Chicken Bucket earlier this year.
But it’s US brand Beyond Meat that has really led innovation in realistic imitation meat. Their “bleeding” burgers arrived in the UK in 2018 and are now available in Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Lidl, as well as many leading restaurant chains.
Beyond Meat was named by 7% of respondents – nearly four times that of Impossible Foods, which is the brand’s biggest rival in the US. Impossible Foods, which is the brand behind Burger King’s Impossible Whopper, was only mentioned by 2% of respondents. Meatless Farm, Vivera and Heck all enjoy more share of mind here in the UK.
Prompted brand awareness of meatless meat
It’s always interesting to compare unprompted and prompted brand awareness results because they can tell two very different stories. Just because a consumer doesn’t automatically think of your brand when considering a certain category doesn’t mean they’re unaware of your brand.
In fact, it’s possible to have good brand awareness without being the primary go-to brand in people’s minds. As these results show, 44% of our survey sample have heard of Beyond Meat, despite a much smaller percentage naming it in the unprompted recall test (check out the interactive question above).
Likewise, 42% of people say they’ve heard of Naked Glory, which sells a range of meat alternatives in UK supermarkets – yet it barely featured in the open text responses. Perhaps rival Vivera has more memorable branding since it was more likely to be recalled by consumers even though substantially fewer have heard of it (18.5%).
Meatless Farm, which has just raised a further $31 million in funding, enjoys a solid 36% prompted recall. Earlier this year, the company ran a nationwide UK advertising campaign, with the cheeky slogan “Now that’s a M… F… burger!”. It seems this campaign must have made an impact on brand awareness.
Lidl’s own brand, Without Meat is also gaining traction, recognised by 31% of shoppers. Their Plant Based Pattie won Bronze at the FreeFrom Awards 2020 and was named Best Veggie Burger by Good Housekeeping.
Although Impossible Foods is not yet available in the UK, almost 20% of respondents have heard of it. The brand has received a lot of press for its meat-mimicking heme protein derived from soy, but because the product contains genetically modified ingredients it can’t be sold in the EU.
Moving Mountains has the least brand awareness (10%), despite being available in Sainsbury’s stores across the country since last December. The brand’s burgers can also be found in a number of restaurants, including London chain Dirty Bones.
The UK’s most-purchased meatless meat brand
Out of the new wave of plant-based meat brands (this excludes Quorn and Linda McCartney), UK consumers are most likely to have tried Beyond Meat (23%). This figure could be set to increase dramatically, though, if unsubstantiated reports that Beyond Burgers are about to become available in UK McDonald’s are true.
Right now, Naked Glory and Without Meat (Lidl) are not far behind Beyond Meat, having been purchased by 22% and 21% of UK consumers respectively. Meatless Farm falls several percentage points behind, at 18.5%.
Previously bought by 16% of respondents is Dutch brand Vivera, which has recently announced a €30 million investment to double the size of their production facility. Showing just how much faith Vivera has in the plant-based sector, the company divested their real meat division in 2019.
Moving Mountains is the brand least likely to have been purchased by British consumers – just 8% say they’ve bought it before. Meanwhile, 22% of people are yet to buy any of the meatless meat brands we listed.
The meatless meat brands UK shoppers intend to buy in future
McDonald’s partnership or not, the future looks bright for Beyond Meat. Half of the respondents in our survey say they intend to buy the brand in the next six months. But perhaps even more compelling, 76% of people who have purchased Beyond Meat in the past say they will buy it again in future – that’s decent brand loyalty.
Although it looks like they might need to keep an eye on cheaper competitors because 55% of previous Beyond Meat customers are thinking about trying Lidl’s Without Meat soon. Overall, just under 47% of respondents plan to buy Without Meat. Those who have tried the brand before seem extremely satisfied, with 85% saying they will buy it again.
Meatless Farm, which 44% intend to buy in future, is another brand that scores very highly in terms of loyalty – 83% of previous customers plan to purchase again.
Naked Glory enjoys higher purchase intent than Meatless Farm (47%) but lower brand loyalty (71%). And 54.5% of Naked Glory customers say they’re likely to buy Meatless Farm in future, making it the brand’s top rival.
Meanwhile, just over 34% of respondents plan to buy Vivera soon, including 72.5% of their existing customers. Moving Mountains has the least purchase intent, at 30%, and the lowest brand loyalty (70%).
So, who’s winning when it comes to meatless meat?
The old incumbents in the vegetarian and vegan space, Quorn and Linda McCartney, clearly still dominate in the minds of the UK public. But in this survey, we wanted to explore those brands that make up the vanguard in the meatless meat revolution.
Leading that group is Beyond Meat, enjoying the most unprompted and prompted recall, and the highest purchase history and purchase intent (although not the most brand loyalty – that crown goes to Lidl).
What we do see from these results, though, is that interest in meatless meat brands, in general, is high. Only 1.6% of respondents say they won’t be buying any of the meat-free brands we listed in the next six months, which underlines the fact that going meatless is not just for vegetarians and vegans.
Interested to know how much brand awareness your brand enjoys – and how it compares to competitors? Learn how to run brand tracking in-house by downloading our free guide.