EUROPE – A recent consumer survey conducted by Smart Protein has revealed that more than half of meat consumers in Europe have reduced their annual meat intake, indicating a significant shift toward plant-based diets across the continent.

According to the study, the figure represents a 5% increase compared to 2021 and reflects changing attitudes toward food consumption.

The survey, developed by NGO ProVeg in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen and Ghent University, gathered responses from 7,500 consumers in several European countries, including Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, the UK, and Romania.

It focused on understanding consumer attitudes toward plant-based food consumption.

Among the factors influencing the reduction in meat consumption, health was cited by 47% of respondents, making it the primary motivation. Environmental concerns followed at 29%, while animal welfare considerations were cited by 26% of those surveyed.

The importance of these factors varied across countries, with health being especially prevalent in Romania and Italy, environmental concerns playing a significant role in Denmark and the Netherlands, and animal welfare being particularly important in Germany and the Netherlands.

The most significant reduction in meat consumption was observed in Germany, Italy, and France, where nearly 60% of respondents reported decreasing their meat intake. In Germany, meat consumption reached its lowest levels in over three decades in 2022.

The survey also revealed that the number of flexitarians declined by 3% compared to the previous year, with just over a quarter of Europeans adopting this dietary choice in 2022. Germany had the highest percentage of flexitarians at 40%.

Plant-based food and drink options, such as legumes, “plant-based alternatives,” and legume-based alternatives, were evaluated in the survey.

 Legumes were the most popular, with 57% of respondents consuming them at least once a week.

“Plant-based alternatives” were consumed regularly by 28% of those surveyed, while legume-based alternatives were the least consumed, with 17% including them in their diets.

The survey also highlighted that over 40% of consumers expressed their intention to increase the quantity of plant-based products they buy and eat. Key factors driving this shift included the taste of the products, their health benefits, and affordability.

Trust in plant-based alternatives has grown, with almost half of the respondents reporting that they trust these products more than they did three years ago.

The increased trust was attributed to factors such as the perception that these products are safe to consume, accurately labelled, and reliable.

Commenting on the survey results, Jasmijn de Boo, CEO of ProVeg International, emphasized that increasing numbers of people are choosing to reduce their meat intake.

Additionally, she highlighted the significance of these findings for policymakers and the food industry to make informed decisions regarding the production and promotion of plant-based foods.

According to recent market reports, the global plant-based food and drinks market is expected to reach a value of US$94.2 billion in 2023, with a projected growth rate of 7.2% from 2023 to 2027.

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