Skip to Content

The rise of plant-based eating

BrandVue’s Most Loved Eating Out Brands 2022

Julie Vigne Senior Research Director 19/10/2022

BrandVue’s Most Loved Eating Out Brands 2022

Many major eating out brands are catering to the rising demand for healthier and more sustainable eating by offering a plant-based menu.

With plant-based products becoming increasingly more available, it’s no surprise that we’ve seen a +2% increase in those adopting new diets - including those actively reducing meat, flexitarians, and vegetarians - in the last year.

Since switching to plant-based lids, Costa’s environmentally friendly ratings have doubled to 14%, an all-time high for the coffee shop chain.

Data from our Grocery Eye study, a tracker of purchase behaviour within the FMCG sector, tells us that 28% of consumers are aiming to eat more plant-based food this year, a trend restaurants and eateries throughout the UK have been leveraging.

Sustainability, when talking about food or other categories, is complex. The rise in plant-based diets is driven by many factors from a desire to be more environmentally friendly, to an attempt to end animal cruelty or sometimes to simply eat more healthily, creating many opportunities for innovation but also a very complex landscape to navigate.

BrandVue Eating Out asks consumers which brands they think are ‘environmentally friendly’, and on average, brands that are considered environmentally friendly are 9% more loved than brands at an overall level. But does an environmentally friendly food offering really drive Brand Love?

McDonald’s, who takes the top spot as our No.1 Most Loved Eating Out Brand for the 4th year in a row, has announced plans to become the plant-based food and drink leader in the UK. Part of this includes its partnership with Beyond Meat, who will be the supplier of the McPlant patty. The launch of the McPlant in the UK saw a 4% uplift in Brand Love for McDonald’s showing that an offering like this does increase love for a brand, when done right.

Yet, although the introduction of a new plant-based offer has certainly rekindled the love of ‘lost’ vegetarian or plant-based customers, it is also because this love was there already, dormant and just needed a reason to come back to the surface (as I witnessed taking my very excited husband to his first McDonald’s outing since a teenager to try the new McPlant burger in the summer).

And it isn’t just a plant-based menu that the most loved brands are offering. The top 5 most loved brands all use sustainable packaging. Costa, who placed 4th in our league table, recently announced a move to using plant-based cups and lids. Since switching to plant-based lids, Costa’s environmentally friendly ratings have doubled to 14%, an all-time high for the coffee shop chain.

Although plant-based eating is on the up, there are signs that we might be hitting a ceiling, at least for now. Grocery Eye data tells us that a plant-based diet is not seen as important as it was a year ago. For every successful Veggie Pret, there are examples of consumers not embracing fully vegetarian or plant-based outlets just yet. Honest burgers introduced ‘V Honest’ in London in January, with an entirely plant-based menu, but returned to its full meat-based offering just six months later due to low demand.

So, is a plant-based offering a key ingredient for Brand Love? Not necessarily. But it is a key commonality between our most loved brands who are paving the way with ambitious initiatives to help us build back greener, more sustainable and ethical. Brands looking to enter this space will need to carefully understand what needs sustainable eating meets and consider what will cut through in an already saturated market.

Download the report here for the full list of The UK’s Top 100 Most Loved Eating Out Brands, as well as insights on the future of the sector and how brands can stay relevant in the coming years.

Knowledge centre

Read More