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Facts and figures

Facts and Figures

Latest vegetarian and plant-based statistics.

Number of UK vegetarians

  • 4.5% of the UK population have a vegetarian or vegan diet. (NDNS 2018/19) [1]
  • The latest figures show there are just over 3 million vegetarian and vegans (adults and children over the age of 18 months) in the UK. [2]

Meat-free Market

  • In the UK, people ate 17% less meat in 2019 than in 2008. [3]
  • In 2020, consumers in the United Kingdom spent almost £600 million on meat-free food items. This is almost twice the spend of 2016. [4]
  • One in five ready-meals are plant-based or vegetarian. (Ready Meal survey from Eating Better 2021) [5]
  • The global market for meat-substitutes is forecast to grow from 5.4bn USD in 2021 to £10.8bn in 2028 (Fortune Business Insights) [6]
  • The plant-based alternative market in the UK and EU is forecast to grow from £3.9bn in 2019 to £6.6bn in 2025 (ING economics report 2020) [7]


  • Vegetarians have 14% lower cancer risk than meat-eaters (WCRF Feb 2022) [8]


  • We should be eating 30% less meat by 2030. (National Food Strategy Report. 2021) [9]
  • For a daily meat-eater, a 30% reduction means just two meat-free days a week. [10]
  • A 75% reduction in global agricultural land use would be achieved if everyone switched to a plant-based diet. (Our World In Data) [11]
  • Plant-based proteins produce 70 times less greenhouse gas emissions than an equivalent amount of beef, and use 150 times less land. (National Food Strategy Report. 2021) [12]

If more people chose vegetarian food, we would have less impact on animals whose habitats are adversely affected by climate change:

  • Global wildlife population sizes have plummeted by 60% in less than 50 years. [13]
  • One in six species is at risk of extinction if we fail to act on climate change. (Foreword WWF & Buglife 2019 Bees & Climate Report) [14]
  • A study by the University of Oxford demonstrated that in countries such as the UK, where incomes are relatively higher than other parts of the world, a whole food vegetarian or vegan diet works out considerably cheaper than a meat-based diet. [15]


  • The Future of Food study, published in the Lancet in 2021, compared the cost of plant-based and meat-based diets in 150 countries, and found that consumers could cut their food bills by a third by adopting a plant-based diet. (Vegan diet: 21-34% cheaper. Vegetarian diet: 27-31% cheaper. Flexitarian diet: 14% cheaper). [16]

Vegetarian School Food

In 2019, a food industry poll of 1,000 school students (aged 8-16 years) found:

  • 70% of children want to see more vegetarian and vegan meals on their school menu. [17]
  • 77% of meat-free youngsters admitted that they’d had to eat meat at some point because of the lack of options available to them. [18]
  • 81% parents reported there are not enough healthy and tasty vegetarian options at their children’s school. [19]

Last updated October 2022.


Number of vegetarians

1.Some recent surveys suggest much higher numbers of vegetarians, but they have either not clearly defined “vegetarian” as part of the study, or the results include people who are eating vegetarian meals “some of the time” or who eat fish or chicken. Although we encourage people to reduce and ideally eliminate their meat consumption, we would not consider these to be vegetarian.

2. The calculation, based on ONS population figures is there are just over 3 million vegetarian and vegans (adults and children over the age of 18 months) it is the 4.5% and it is based on the mid-year estimate for the UK population in 2018 and 2019 averaged between the two years. Citation: Stewart, Cristina et al., 2021. Trends in UK meat consumption: analysis of data from years 1–11 (2008–09 to 2018–19) of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey rolling programme. The Lancet. Planetary health, 5(10), pp.e699–e708. Supplementary material. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(21)00228-X

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