Veganism is a contemporary and expanding societal phenomenon that has been lately growing in Western developed countries, which is demonstrated by the steadily growing number of vegans and people following plant-based diets. In recent years, there has been a growing trend toward vegetarianism and veganism in Europe due to growing awareness of health, environmental concerns, and compassion for animals. Within the last four years, the number of vegans in Europe has doubled from 1.3 million to the current estimated figure of 2.6 million, representing 3.2% of the population. Nearly half of all-vegan Europeans (45.5%) say they would like to see more vegan alternatives for sausages and cold cuts, followed by cheese substitutes as the next product on their want-list. There also seems to be strong demand for plant-based baked goods (38.6%) as well as more snacks (32.9%) (Source: Veganz).
Plant-based options are no longer a novelty on the shelves and in the fridges of supermarkets and discount stores across Europe. The 512 million EU citizens account for 6.8% of the world’s population but are responsible for 16% of the world’s total meat consumption. The current per capita amount of meat eaten by Europeans stood at 69.3 kg in 2018, but that figure is expected to fall to 68.6 kg in 2030, according to the European Union Agricultural Outlook. One of the factors behind this projected decrease is the rise in the EU's vegetarian population, who abstain from eating meat, and in vegans, who avoid all animal products altogether. Thus, Europe has seen a significant increase in vegetarians and vegans in recent years.
In numerous European countries, national health research organizations are actively promoting a plant-based diet to help citizens become healthier and to help the mitigation of climate change. This is in response to animal food production, which has increased exponentially in the past few decades, such as in Italy, where the Mediterranean plant-based diet has traditionally been prevalent.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of lactose-intolerant consumers. Lactose tolerance is exceptionally widespread in Northern European countries like Sweden and Finland. In addition, Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain recorded some of the highest numbers of lactose-intolerant consumers. Therefore, the target market for plant-based food and beverage is not limited to vegans but includes a vast majority of consumers, including flexitarians, lactose-intolerant consumers, and even consumers looking for clean-label food and beverage options.
The European plant-based food market has recorded rapid growth due to increasing consumer interest in vegan, vegetarian, and lactose-free food products. The growing trend of millennials adopting flexitarian and meat-free diets signals a change in purchasing habits that significantly shift from earlier generations. Companies across the food value chain in Europe, from producers to retailers, are already investing in these opportunities.
Some companies are preparing for the decline of demand for animal products by investing in other companies that produce alternatives. The market has received investment or funding from several high-profile individuals, financial investors, and companies in the past few years. According to the Good Food Institute Europe, venture capital investments in alternatives for animal-based products in Europe increased from USD 1,104.2 million in 2018 to USD 2,973.3 million in 2020.
Thus, the growing vegetarianism, declining meat consumption, increasing preference for plant food, and increasing venture capital investment in animal alternatives are some of the major factors driving the market for plant-based food products in Europe.
Meticulous Research, in its latest publication on ‘Europe Plant-based Food Market,’ states that the market is expected to reach $16.70 billion by 2029, supported by a CAGR of 10.1% during the forecast period of 2022 to 2029.
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