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Most Vegetarians Use Supplements, Survey Says

A new study of just under 6,000 UK consumers by MMR Research Worldwide reveals the majority of vegetarians supplement their diet; 25% are "not satisfied" with vegetarian food ranges in supermarkets; 76% unimpressed with fast food restaurants.

· 10 percent of lapsed vegetarians have moved away from a vegetarian lifestyle primarily due to concerns over health and nutrition

· The majority of UK vegetarians feel the need to supplement their diet with vitamins and minerals

· Around a quarter of vegetarians are not satisfied with the choice of vegetarian options available to them in their supermarket

· A whopping 76 percent of vegetarians are not happy with the choice available to them in fast food restaurants

Research from food and drink research specialists, MMR Research Worldwide, for National Vegetarian Week 2010 (May 24th -- 30th), has found that concern over the nutritional benefit of a vegetarian diet is turning vegetarians to dietary supplements and in some cases, even back to meat. Furthermore, supermarkets are failing to satisfy around a quarter of vegetarians with ready meals, frozen foods and meat substitute products. MMR, which advises leading food brands on product development by conducting consumer and sensory research, urges companies to address issues faced by the vegetarian market as well as the market of 'reluctant meat eaters' to maximize revenue.

Vegetarians are 27 percent more likely to buy vitamin and mineral supplements than non-vegetarians are. With 50 percent of the vegetarian sample of 357 regularly taking vitamin supplements (compared with 36 percent of the 5,582 non-vegetarians) and 26 percent taking mineral supplements (compared with 15 percent of non-vegetarians), the majority of UK vegetarians are feeling the need to supplement their diet.

"Sales of dietary supplements and fortified food could be increased if brands adopted more targeted marketing towards vegetarian consumers who are more likely to be receptive to nutritional benefit messages" says Mat Lintern, managing director of MMR Research Worldwide. "Interestingly, lapsed vegetarians -- representing a surprisingly large 10 percent of our sample -- cite concerns over health and nutrition as a reason for eventually returning to meat. So, it might even be the case that more consumers would convert to vegetarianism if they were suitably educated about the role of a range of vegetarian food products and/or fortified foods in maintaining a healthy meat-free diet."

Opportunity for supermarkets: an issue for the UK's grocery giants is the fact that 22 percent of vegetarians were not satisfied with the choice of vegetarian options available to them in their supermarket. The problem is much more acute in convenience stores, and less than half of the vegetarians polled were happy with the choice available. "Almost 25 percent of consumers call for a dedicated supermarket section in-store, with a similar proportion stating they would like to see a wider choice of meat substitute products," says Lintern. "There is a huge opportunity for the likes of Tesco Express, Co-op and Spar to do more in terms of widening their vegetarian ranges and making sure they are visible on the shelves. Our survey revealed that plenty of non-vegetarians opt for vegetarian meals so these products should be appealing to all consumers."

Fast Food restaurants failing to provide choice: More than three quarters of vegetarians are not happy with the choice of foods available to them in fast food restaurants. Only three percent were very happy with the choice. Pubs and restaurants fair better -- almost half were happy with the choice -- but still with a considerable opportunity to better satisfy the vegetarian market.

The MMR Research Worldwide study provides a range of insights from UK vegetarians and vegans relevant to food brands. As may be expected, vegetarians are more likely to choose healthy products provided they are quick to prepare. They are motivated by products with no artificial ingredients and are less likely to buy ready meals because of health concerns. They are keen on ethical and quality food and attribute more importance than non-vegetarians to issues of free range and animal welfare, recyclable packaging, sustainable production, fair trade, carbon neutral, food miles, natural, low fat, wholegrain and organic.

Meat substitute products: Over 90 percent of vegetarians buy meat substitutes and the ones that do not, cite not liking the taste or texture. Over a third eat them most days and this figure rises to almost 80 percent amongst vegans. The quality of meat substitute products is generally regarded as "good/acceptable" with 69 percent awarding them a seven or more on a 10-point opinion scale.

Dairy products: While 85 percent are happy with vegetarian product labeling, cheese and yoghurts were the only products mentioned by more than a handful of people as being a problem in this regard.

"On average, the typical vegetarian is just a little more health aware when it comes to food which obviously has implications for the food that's produced for them, and how it is packaged and marketed," explains Lintern. "They are also more likely to be reading ingredients labels than non vegetarians, which suggests the importance of product labeling to indicate suitability for vegetarians. Finally, companies wishing to target vegetarians are advised to link their products with environmental, ethical and fair trade messages."

About MMR Research Worldwide MMR Research Worldwide is a leading research partner for food, drink and personal care companies with offices in the UK and the USA. With profound expertise in sensory research, product testing, NPD and emotion-based research, MMR Research Worldwide provides innovative, creative and scientifically robust research and is a trusted advisor on all product, brand and packaging strategy decisions. As part of the MMR Group, the company's clients have access to a variety of unique research assets including Brandphonics(R) -- a new emotion-based approach to identify what influences consumer choice -- an in-house sensory facility and MMR Pulse, a food and drink trend-tracking information resource. The MMR Group is a privately-owned research company employing in excess of 100 people. Founded in 1989 by Professor David Thomson, the Group is headquartered in Oxfordshire, UK and has a rapidly growing business unit in New York, US.

About National Vegetarian Week National Vegetarian Week (NVW) is the annual awareness-raising campaign promoting inspirational vegetarian food and the benefits of a meat-free lifestyle. Celebrated by the Vegetarian Society since 1992, the Week is now an established event that gets bigger and better every year. This year, it runs between Monday May 24th and Sunday May 30th.

General vegetarian/vegan survey facts and figures

· Amongst our sample (broadly representative of UK shoppers) we found 6.5 % were vegetarian and 0.5% were vegan

· On average, women were much more likely to be vegetarian than men (8% v. 3%)

· Vegetarians are more likely to be from the higher social classes (64% ABC1 amongst vegetarians vs. 56% amongst non vegetarians)

· Veganism could be a growing trend: of the vegetarians we spoke to, only 19% had become vegetarian in the last 5 years. For vegans, this figure was 72%

· Half of vegetarians actually cook meat for other members of their household and this figure rises to two-thirds amongst those with children

· Overall, only 59% of vegetarians can be classified as "strict veggies" (i.e. eat no meat or fish)

· The main foods missed by vegetarians are: bacon (35%), chicken (19%), beef / burgers / steak (11%) and sausages (5%)

· The five most common reasons (unprompted) why people go vegetarian are: animal rights / cruelty / welfare (31%), dislike meat / taste of meat (20%), it is not right to kill / eat animals (16%), health reasons / healthy eating (15%), I could not eat animals / animal flesh (11%)

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