Plant-based, a hipster fad or the easiest way for you to make a difference in the race against climate change? As the market in the UK, and worldwide, continues to grow we’ve explored how changes to our diet can help lower our emissions and found the innovators who have both feet firmly planted in the market – believing it’s here for the long-term.

The production, and consumption, of meat – particularly red meat – is one of the highest contributions of CO2 emissions globally. Meat and dairy production are responsible for 14% of global climate changing emissions and it is estimated that if cattle were considered as a nation, they would be the third largest producer of greenhouse gases behind the US and China. The energy required to produce just one quarter-pounder burger is the equivalent to powering an iPhone for six months.

The impact of the growing emissions is huge, research shows that by 2030 an estimated 90% of all major crops could be impacted by climate change – with rice seeing a 23% decrease in growth over this period.

‘We’re not telling people to stop eating meat. In some places people have no other choice. But it’s obvious that in the West we’re eating far too much,” Said Prof Pete Smith, Environmental Scientist at the University of Aberdeen.

By cutting out just half of your meat consumption, you can reduce your diet’s carbon footprint by 40% – as the production of meat doesn’t just increase CO2 emissions, it requires vital resources such as water, fuel and land, and contributes to deforestation and biodiversity loss.

It’s not just about eating plant-based though….

Food waste is at an all-time high, with an estimated 8-10% of all global emissions coming from food loss and waste – this encompasses the whole process, from field to bin. It’s also important to eat locally sourced and seasonal food and minimise waste to further reduce your carbon footprint.

Anne Marie Bonneau, the ‘Zero Waste Chef’ believes that “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” This shouldn’t be considered a fad or trend, it needs to become a lifestyle change for the Western world.

The plant-based and vegan market has exploded in the last few years, with new and innovative campaigns and products hitting the shelves of the UK every day. In 2019, 5% of UK consumers attempted Veganuary (The Grocer) and Mintel estimates that by 2023 the Vegan market will be valued at £1.1bn in the UK, whilst a Barclays study suggests the global market could grow to $140bn in that time. It seems that plant-based is not just a marketing buzzword, it’s a complex market led by experts, so who are the innovators in the market?

Ethan Brown
Founder and CEO – Beyond Meat

Founded in Los Angeles in 2009 with the company’s initial products being made available across the US in 2012, Beyond Meat is one of the world’s leading plant-based meat substitute companies and is available in 50 countries. Leading the industry, the company was floated on the stock market in 2019 for $3.8bn, whilst the company had previously been valued at a third of the value. Leading the innovators in the plant-based world, Ethan Brown secured investment from the likes of Bill Gates and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The products can be bought throughout the UK in supermarkets and Ethan has also worked with burger chains to provide vegan alternatives. Notably in the UK, Brown has worked with new start-up Neat Burger – who have investment from F1 Champion Lewis Hamilton – to develop their own patty to be sold in their fast food stores. Ethan’s goal is to find a better way to feed the planet and believes that by shifting from animal to plant-based meat, we can address four global growing global issues: human health, climate change, constraints on natural resources and animal welfare.

Dr Peter Hynes
Head of R&D – The Meatless Farm Co.

With a target of getting every household in the UK swapping to eating one more plant-based meal per week by 2021, the Meatless Farm Company have set their sites high and believe that by reaching this target it’s the equivalent of taking 16 million cars of the road.

Joining the company from consumer brand conglomerate Unilever, Dr Peter Hynes brought with him a wealth of consumer knowledge and states that customers are becoming increasingly aware of what is available and what they want from a product and it’s all about creating that product for them. He believes that the gap between meat and plant-based is going to close, and is getting closer all the time, and that is his main role in the company. He’s creating a product that provides an alternative to meat, without sacrificing the nutritional value – you can’t just rely on the fact that it’s not a meat product to know it’s healthy anymore. He believes that with his continued R&D, in five-to-ten years the gap to animal meat will be closed completely.

Dawn Carr
Director of Vegan Corporate Projects – PETA UK

Starting as an animal rights activist for PETA, Dawn Carr has stepped back from activism and has become the Director of Vegan Corporate Projects at PETA UK. Working with hospitality and FMCG giants in the UK she has been fundamental in the adaption of menus and addition of many major vegan options across the country.

Since beginning the role in 2014, Dawn has been at the forefront of many newsworthy, and often controversial, products. The addition of vegan ‘cream’ to the famous strawberries and cream offering at Wimbledon became a highlight of her career in 2017. Pushing UK companies further, Carr had been in talks with UK baking chain Greggs since she began the role and was crucial in pushing the launch of the chain’s now famed ‘Vegan Sausage Roll.’ Becoming the chain’s fastest-selling new product in six years, the company attributed a 15.1% boost in sales for the first 19 weeks of 2019.

Ishen Paran
UK General Manager, Oatly

Founded in Sweden, Oatly has been offering alternatives to dairy products from oats since the early 1990s, however it is their approach to marketing that has propelled the brand into the UK marketplace in recent years. The companies oat-based drinks use 73% less CO2 than cow’s milk to produce and this is a fact that the UK marketing team have capitalised on. Using guerrilla marketing techniques the brand, headed by Ishen Paran, have caused outrage in the dairy industry. ‘Hijacking’ the London Underground billboard, the company ran with the slogan ‘It’s like milk but made for humans’ and has recently begun an ‘oat propaganda’ campaign throughout the UK. The campaign is set to target a whole new market stating that they’ve ‘been mostly hanging around East London for a while now’ the brand believes that it can reach the rest of the UK with its clever marketing campaigns.