|Title:||United Kingdom top 10 vegetarian brands ranked by pounds sterling and percent change for year ending October 29, 2011|
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TOP XX BESTSELLERS
XXw/e XX October 2011
VALUE CHANGE [pounds sterling]m y-X-y %
Own label XXX X.X
Quorn XXX X.X
Innocent XX XX.X
Linda McCartney XX XX.X
Cauldron Foods XX XX.X
WeightWatchers X -XX.X
Higgidy X X.X
Ginsters X -XX.X
Mcintosh X XX.X
Dalepak X -XX.X
Is the 'V' word back in fashion? Just a few years ago, retailers and suppliers alike were ditching the word 'vegetarian' from packaging and in-store fixtures in favour of 'meat-free' in a bid to appeal to a wider audience.
But now, although they're still keen to reach beyond the traditional vegetarian heartland, they appear to have changed tack. Within the past XX months, both Tesco and Sainsbury's, the two biggest retailers in the meat-free sector with a combined XX.X% share of the category [Kantar Worldpanel XXw/e XX October 2011], have reintroduced at least part of the word to their ranges.
In September 2010, Tesco relaunched its vegetarian range as 'Vegelicious!' and last May, it threw its weight behind National Vegetarian Week by running bogofs on the range and displaying a National Vegetarian Week sticker on packs. Meanwhile, as part of a mammoth overhaul of its entire own-label range, Sainsbury's rebadged its veggie ranges as 'Love Veg' and 'Love Soya' last August and October (see page XX).
"The death of the word vegetarian has been greatly exaggerated," says Vanessa Brown, head of corporate relations at the Vegetarian Society. "We are pleased to see more manufacturers celebrating their products' veggie credentials. Not all 'meat-free' food is totally vegetarian and consumers have been telling us and the food industry that the details really do matter."
Retailers and manufacturers are emphasising the vegetable content of vegetarian ranges rather than lack of meat to appeal not just to vegetarians and meat avoiders, but also to those who want to eat more veg for health or environmental reasons, she argues.
Just X% of the population are vegetarians, according to the Vegetarian Society, but a further X% regularly eat meat-free meals. Vegetarian food - if not vegetarianism is going mass market. "We've seen a real move towards the mainstream," Brown confirms. "The supermarkets have been investing a lot more into their meat-free sections with larger ranges. They are even introducing premium and basic level products to cater for ever-diversifying markets."
A case in point is Innocent's Veg Pots, launched in September 2008 as a healthy alternative to fresh soups and ready meals and possible accompaniment to meat dishes. Veg Pot sales rose XX.X% by value and XX.X% by volume last year [IRI XXw/e XX October 2011] thanks to a Tweet and Eat promotion that gave consumers money-off vouchers and resulted in XX,XXX people tweeting about the products over a two-month period.
This focus on the 'veg' in vegetarian has played its part in turning around the fortunes of the sector. Following a X% value sales drop last year, sales have recovered dramatically, up X.X% by value to [pounds sterling]XXX,Xm and X.X% by volume [Kantar]. Own-label sales, meanwhile, are up X.X%.
Behind the scenes there's been a flurry of activity, with embattled food manufacturing giant Premier Foods selling off two of the leading brands in the sector, Quorn and Cauldron, to Exponent Private Equity for [pounds sterling]XXXm in January last year.
Sales of Quorn and Cauldron branded products slumped in 2010 but in 2011 reversed the decline to chalk up value growth of X.X% and XX.X% respectively [IRI]. The turnaround followed Exponent's move to increase marketing activity and widen distribution. This will continue apace this year, promises Julian Cooke, head of category management at Quorn Foods.
"We are heading into 2012 with a revamped business strategy and major investment which will drive incremental growth," Cooke says. "We have a strong vision of Quorn becoming a [pounds sterling]XXXm brand within the top XX grocery brands in the next XX years, which is shaping our strategy across both the Quorn and Cauldron brands. We will be increasing our distribution even more, driving innovation and placing more focus on promotional strategy to drive basket spend."
The Quorn range is set to get a packaging overhaul this year and there will also be a [pounds sterling]Xm TV-led advertising campaign to reach new consumers, he adds. New Cauldron products will be launched later in the year to bolster the premium meat-free sector.
Quorn is unlikely to have it all its own way though, with many of its rivals planning a host of activity this year. Last year, Linda McCartney Foods launched XX new products which focused on seasonality. Winter NPD included Rosemary & Red Onion Sausages, Cranberry & Camembert Burgers and a Mushroom & Ale Pie, which was created following a national cooking competition.
"New and seasonal product developments have added value, frequency and weight of purchase," says David McLaughlin, head of the Hain frozen food operation at Fakenham, where the brand is produced. "We're seeking to inject interest and growth into the ready meals and shaped sectors in 2012, while building on strength with seasonal extensions. Warming and traditional comfort food has worked well in the recession, particularly in the autumn/winter months."
It's not just established players that are upping their game. Amy's Kitchen, the biggest natural organic frozen food brand in the US arrived in the UK last year after opening a dedicated factory in Corby. Having been a hit import product at Whole Foods Market for some time, the company has now gained a number of listings in the major supermarkets and this year, it is planning to move into the meat-free sector after being pigeon-holed by UK retailers as free-from, says UK sales director Damien Threadgold.
"We're a free-from brand and we're also vegetarian but in the UK we're been put into the free-from sector," he explains. "We've been pushed down this route but we want to move across to vegetarian and we're trying to make this happen. UK meat-free brands are focused on meat-subsitutes, but we're not about that. We're focused on health and we want to educate shoppers about this."
The good news for meat-free is that consumers are increasingly receptive to this message. Retailers and manufacturers are certainly upbeat about the category's prospects. Freed from its shackles of a niche sector peddling tofu to ageing hippies, the possibilities for meat free are endless, believes Quorn's Cooke. "There are four million households across the UK committed to watching their weight and X.X million households leading a healthy lifestyle and reducing meat in their diet," he says. "This means there is huge demand for the category beyond its traditional vegetarian roots."
The days of meat and two veg could be numbered.
* Worth [pounds sterling]XXXm, meat-free has grown X.X% in the past year, ahead of total food. Growth has been driven by a rise in shoppers buying in larger quantities at a higher average price and a strong performance by frozen and branded lines.
* Volume growth is behind value growth, indicating the impact of retail price increases.
* Minced and pieces accounts for the largest share of the market -XX.X% - and has performed strongly, up XX.X%.
* Despite share losses this year, thanks to a strong performance by a number of competitors, Tesco still holds XX.X% of the meat-free market. Waitrose has seen very strong growth, driven by shoppers buying the more frequently.
* Meat-free is a relatively affluent market, reflected in Waitrose's overtrade. Upmarket shoppers have not been deterred by price rises and penetration within this group has risen, upping an already very strong demographic share.
* Andy Crossan
Best Mince Ever
Relaunched: December 2011
Minced and pieces is one of the most popular meat-free categories, enjoying value growth of XX.X% over the past year [Kantar]. Quorn is hoping to boost this in 2012 by relaunching its mince as its 'Best Mince Ever'. Quorn claims it is now "tastier than ever to appeal to consumers beyond the traditional vegetarian shopper". Other new products will follow in 2012, "all focused on introducing new consumers to the category," says Julian Cooke, head of category management at Quorn Foods.
Gourmet Meat Free Duck Style Pieces
Manufacturer: Redwood Wholefood
Launched: May 2011
Redwood, the vegan food company owned by Heather Mills, had a busy 2011, launching XX new products and getting kosher certification. Mock duck pieces was one of the products launched under its Vegideli banner. NPD lined up for 2012 includes a new range offish alternatives and a move into frozen, says director Lee Rockingham.