Although some five per cent of Britons claim to be vegetarian, around half of these still eat fish, one third chomp on chicken and one quarter devour red meat. So reports Taylor Nelson Sofres’ Family Food Panel.

Allowing for these defections, an average of three per cent of the UK populace remain true veggies, green in tooth and claw. A “significant minority” of these are women in the 17-34 age group.

Asked their reasons for eschewing meat, 44% claimed to do so for ethical reasons (animal maltreatment), 22% were influenced by health considerations, while 9% had been deterred by a series of recent health scares such as BSE and foot and mouth disease.

There has been a significant increase in consumption of TVP (textured vegetable protein) products as a meat replacement, the most popular brands being the Linda McCartney range (owned by the former Beatle and his family) and Quorn manufactured by AstraZeneca subsidiary Marlow Foods.

The research also revealed that:

• Quorn products, worth an estimated £93 million ($145.52m; €146.69m) in Britain, account for 46% of total vegetarian foods. Vegetarian bacon and vegetarian spaghetti bolognaise are two of the most popular Quorn products.

• Vegetable based products such as vegetable grills and burgers have also become more popular, particularly with women aged 25-44.

• Frozen vegetarian food is also a popular option, with vegetable pizza (consumed by children in particular), macaroni cheese, cauliflower cheese, vegetable curry and vegetable lasagne as the five most popular meals.

• Consumption of chicken and beef has seen growth while pork, lamb and turkey have become less popular choices in recent years.

• Linda McCartney products are consumed most regularly by children aged between six and ten and also by females aged 45-64.

Observes TNS account director Sara Donnelly: “The focus of vegetarian food marketing … retailers will need to change in order to appeal to a more diverse market place, including men and older women. Whilst meals without meat – for example meatfree pasta dishes, soups, salads, stir-fries and sandwiches – are becoming more popular, meat still features in a significant majority of people’s diets.

“However, in a society that places huge demands on time, a growing number of consumers are looking for meals that are convenient to prepare, and meat is often perceived as inconvenient. Because of this, there are now opportunities for food marketers to target consumers who want convenient, healthy, meat-free meals, rather than marketing products specifically as ‘meals for vegetarians.”

Data sourced from: Daily Research News Online; additional content by WARC staff