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Big signs of change in 2018

News | Published  20 December 2018
Big signs of change which we expect to see more of – and what it means for us.

2018 has been a year where we have seen big signs of change, such as the increase in flexitarianism and the mainstreaming of veganism. Over the last year, we have seen the growth in better meat and dairy from more direct trade models outside of traditional retailers. 2018 has been a big year for publications of stark research setting out the need for urgent action on climate change. 

In 2019 we expect to see these trends developing, but to facilitate this we need more joined up approach to food and farming and turn intentions into action.

The march of the flexitarians
It’s happening and it’s fast. Over a third of the population are cutting down on – or cutting out – meat. This trend is set to continue with 25% of people surveyed earlier this year saying they plan to reduce their meat consumption in future. This trend is being driven by younger people who are generally more conscious of the impact of what they eat, with 35% of 18-34s plan to reduce their meat consumption in the next 12 months.

Exponential growth of veganism
If any trend has dominated food discussions in the UK, its veganism. Nearly all UK supermarkets launched new ranges this year with high profile launches at the beginning of the year from Tesco with the Wicked range and expanding ranges in Sainsbury’s. It isn’t just the usual suspects getting involved. Morrison’s recently launched a VTaste range, and also Iceland added a range of vegan products alongside its ‘No Bull’ burgers. We expect to see even wider range from the likes of M&S and Sainsbury’s in January 2019. Unilever has just bought The Vegetarian Butcher highlighting the scramble by big business to tap into meat substitutes market. 

There are 540,000 vegans in the UK on latest estimates and this figure is likely to have grown since the last poll in 2016.

168,542 took part in Veganuary in 2018 as the campaign grew by 183% on the previous year. What will this be in January 2019? 

Amazon’s top selling cookbooks are dominated by plant-based creativity, with ‘BOSH!: Simple Recipes. Amazing Food. All Plants’ at number 3, ‘Veggie Lean in 15’ by Joe Wicks at Number 2 and Ottolenghi’s ‘Simple’ with delicious vegetarian, vegan and meat recipes at number 1.

Better meat and dairy direct

Over the last year, we have seen the growth in better meat and dairy from more direct trade models outside of traditional retailers. Meat boxes, where people crowdfund a cow, and growth in organic direct sales. Direct models allow farmers to differentiate from the commodity market and offer improvements for animal welfare, health, nature and environment. We see exciting models like Ethical Dairy and Farmdrop building a local and online customer base of support. These are exciting developments, demonstrating new relationships between farmers and consumers who want to reward and support a holistic approach to better meat and dairy.

This year, Eating Better launched its guidelines to better meat, and we’re delighted to welcome Nature Friendly Farming Network as our latest alliance member who support calls for less and better. 

Meat and dairy reduction widely accepted as necessary to meet climate goals
2018 has been a big year for publications of stark research setting out the need for urgent action on climate change. Including the IPCC report showing that greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture will produce a climate change of 1.5°C (beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people) and a Rural Investment Support for Europe report which sets out safe operating space for EU livestock

Dietary change is critically important for reducing greenhouse gases and reducing land needed to feed animals. The Eating Better Alliance call has for a 50% reduction in meat and dairy consumption by 2030 has been backed up by commitments of individual alliance members Compassion In World Farming, Feedback and Greenpeace. There has been movement by retailers with Tesco announcing its ambition to reduce the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket by 50%.

What we think is critical for our work in 2019

Joined up working

2018 was a missed opportunity in terms of providing a joined-up food and farming strategy as part of the Agriculture Bill, whilst the bill provided assurances around environmental impact, a focus on health and diet was notable by its absence.

We’re still fragmented, there needs to be joined up discussion with the future of food and agriculture at the forefront. We are working with alliance organisation Sustain to influence this, but the volume of this conversation needs to be turned up a notch in 2019. We need to continue conversations with producers on future opportunities to support this transition and work closely with the health and nutrition community.

2019 - a year of action
While there is agreement on the need for reduction there is little shared agreement on how to get there.

There is no one silver bullet. There are lots of avenues to influencing the way we eat from retailers, food service and government. We want to use these opportunities to build a shared understanding of what everyone needs to do to create a supportive environment for this transition.

Love food

We need to create a food future that is healthy, tasty and desirable delivering benefits to our health and the environment. It’s about love for food and indulgence not furthering anxiety around food. In these uncertain and divided times, it needs to bring us together (I nearly made it to the end of the article without mentioning Brexit, oops sorry). 

So, enjoy eating better this Christmas with friends and family.

Take our tips from here.