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The Flexitarian impact on the frozen aisle

Cauliflower steaks: a plant-based meat alternative meal.

Flexitarianism, or intentionally reducing the number of meat-based meals one eats per week, is a lifestyle that has been around for years, however, has seen a significant rise in popularity in recent years.

Looking at Google Trends, interest in the term has continually grown throughout the past decade, with significant peaks in most recent years. Many different factors have driven this; a greater focus on the well-being of the planet, animal welfare, all driving a larger cultural shift. In years gone by, vegetarians and vegans have battled negative connotations around their dietary choices, something a lot less common these days. 

This shift has been reflected in options available in restaurants and fast-food outlets. Lord of the Fries was one of the pioneers in vegan fast food, having an entirely vegan menu since its inception in 2004, but has seen a significant increase in demand since 2018. This rise in popularity has prompted co-founder Mark Koronczyk to roll out a six-year expansion plan that will double the number of stores across ANZ (Sydney Morning Herald, 16th September 2019). Last year, burger chain Grill’d partnered with Beyond Meat to launch four new meat-free burger options. Dominos launched a new range of planted based meat pizzas and Hungry Jacks partnered with v2food to launch the plant based “Rebel Whopper”.

The rise of flexitarian in Frozen

These meat-free alternatives have also made their way into supermarkets, with sections of the deli now designated specifically to meat-free alternatives, with options also increasing their presence in the frozen aisle. 

In Frozen Meals, vegan/vegetarian options brought in almost 40 per cent of new shoppers to the category over the last year, whilst only making up just over 10 per cent value share (IRI Shopper Panel data to 21/06/20). These options have also outperformed traditional meat-based meals, leading to active SKU growth of meat-free options to grow at seven times the rate of meat-based (IRI Shopper Panel data to 21/06/20).

In Frozen Pastry and Snacks, vegetarian has also outperformed meat-based, with both branded and private label increasing their attention on vegetarian options. Gone are the days where spinach and ricotta triangles were the only option: Woolworths and Coles now both have a wide range of own brand croquettes, fritters and bites to choose from. From a branded perspective, Patties has led this shift across the grocery and petrol and convenience channels launching NPD across all their major brands. Through its Patties brand, the company introduced a new range of vegetarian croquettes and vegan friendly meat-free sausage rolls, whilst its Herbert Adams brand recently launched vegetarian savoury rolls and pasties. Its most notable innovation however has come from its Four N’ Twenty brand, with a meat-free plant-based version of its iconic pie now available in supermarkets and convenience stores.

Ten years ago, the idea of a plant-based meat-free alternative to the much-loved meat pie would have been laughed at. In 2020, it’s not only a reality, but it’s a reality that has been supported by suppliers, retailers and customers alike. Which begs the question, what frozen category could be next, or should I say, will be next? And who will be in the position to capitalise on the opportunity?

  • About the author: Sam Palmer is a consultant at IRI, the leading provider of big data, predictive analytics and forward-looking insights for the FMCG industry.  For more information, visit www.iriworldwide.com.

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