Being vegetarian in 2019: quorn is still king in UK supermarkets

With Veganuary 2019 now at a close, it’s been interesting to follow and try out some of the meat alternatives taking our society by storm.

In days gone by, vegetarians were perhaps thought of as a minority of animal lovers and fussy eaters, but fast forward to 2019 and vegetarianism is widely adopted as an overall healthier lifestyle to eating too much meat, regardless of having any particularly strong feelings towards animals!

Quorn products are still the most ‘meaty’

However, despite the growing hysteria around plant-based diets, UK supermarket retailers appear to be a little slow on the uptake when it comes to faux meat. By this I mean vegetarian alternatives that look and taste like the real thing.

Right now, the brand dominating the shelves in the ‘tastes like meat’ category remains Quorn, and boy are they running with it (Especially given their new ambassador is Mo Farah…)! Every time I browse the supermarket shelves, it seems there are more and more vegetarian versions of meals that meat lovers enjoy – toad in the hole, bacon, chicken bakes, tikka masala, fish fingers, gammon steaks and even whole roasts! They’re doing it all! The only downside being that these new products aren’t cheap.

Show me the faux meat!

In contrast to Quorn’s ambitious product range expansion, retailers seem to be concentrating on the actual vegetable alternatives, and only dabble in the basics of faux meat – mince, chicken pieces and sausages. In my experience, these products have a very noticeable lower quality when compared to the brand leader, Quorn. That coupled with the fact there really isn’t much difference in the price between Quorn and the supermarket brand equivalent, begs the question: are we as consumers paying the price for being vegetarian?

Given the fact the patent on the particular mycoprotein used in Quorn was apparently lifted in 2010, anyone wanting to, is now able to use this to recreate their own products and it just seems to me that retailers are missing out on a trick. Yes, Quorn have a 30 year head-start given they had the mycoprotein patented in 1985, but here in the UK, we are alleged to be entering the era of The Vegan - now is surely the time for retailers to start paying more attention to one section of own brands that appear to have had very little look in over the years.

Room for more vegetarian products in our supermarkets

Sainsbury’s certainly seem to be moving with the times as they’ve just announced that they will place meat alternatives alongside meat products in their chillers. However, what I personally feel is missing is their own brand answer to Quorn.

Meanwhile, Quorn is in the process of providing a meat-free alternative (that looks, feels and almost tastes like meat) to EVERY single meat product and dish. Quorn could almost launch their own supermarket just on that alone. In my view, retailers really need to get with the programme because as much as I love saving the pigs and cows of this world, I really don’t enjoy vegetable sausages with my peas and mash… it’s just not the same! 

Could ‘meaty’ vegan products be own brand winners?

Despite being streets ahead of supermarket own brands when it comes to veggie meat replicas, Quorn feel like they are only just jumping on the vegan bandwagon. Quorn have begun bringing out specific vegan sausages and mince etc.; if retailers were quick off the mark, this could be the perfect opportunity to push forward, and for once, beat Quorn to the finish line!

In order to compete with Quorn on range and quality, retailers need to look to their own brand suppliers for inspiration and innovation. Suppliers are the experts in their products and enabling them to collaborate with retail product development teams will help them to begin to match and even exceed national brand market leaders like Quorn.

Fostering a culture of collaboration isn’t easy! We’ve spent years at S4RB refining our supplier engagement methodology to help retailers create winning own brands. Product developers can find out more about the benefits of supplier engagement in my colleague’s blog: Product developers – why supplier engagement matters to you.

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Jordan Box

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