The number of Kiwis eating plant-based meals has doubled in the last three years - an increase which a leading New Zealand dietitian says is "astounding".
Research conducted by Kantar as part of its Better Futures 2022 report, has revealed that the percentage of Kiwis going flexitarian - those choosing plant-based options and a reduction in meat for at least some of their meals - has jumped from 10 per cent in 2018 to 19 per cent in 2021.
Catherine Bell, dietitian at My Food Bag, says she finds the extent of the rise astounding, but not surprising as a growing number of My Food Bag customers have been telling the company they want to eat more plant-based meals.
My Food Bag last year sold 2.8 million plant-based or vegetarian meals, in response to the growing demand for more non-meat options, and now the company has launched a plant-powered food bag providing seven different plant-based recipes to choose from every week which are available for ordering now.
The move, which Bell believes will help break down barriers around eating plant-based meals, comes as flexitarianism is on the rise around the world.
A report this year by the US Food Institute revealed that 47 per cent of Americans aged 24-39 thought of themselves as flexitarians while a survey of 2000 people by media platform Plant Based News in the UK showed 63 per cent would be willing to go flexitarian if plant-based alternatives met certain criteria.
Bell says flexitarianism does not mean eliminating meat in meals altogether. Flexitarians typically reduce the amount of meat they eat unlike vegetarians who will eat no meat at all (although many will still eat animal-based products such as dairy and eggs).
"It is possible to still have a healthy diet with meat, but plant-based diets have considerable health benefits," she says. "When done well they tend to be high in fibre which is good for gut and heart health and they are typically low in saturated fats and salt both of which are linked to better heart health too.
"Flexitarianism is great because for most people, moving to a fully vegetarian or vegan diet (no animal products at all) is a step too far. Kiwis have traditionally been brought up on meat being the main meal with vegetables on the side.
"A lot of people are also concerned about taste if they go plant-based and want something more relatable to a meat meal," Bell says. "So I think our plant-based recipes will help break down a lot of those barriers and entice meat-lovers to give plant based eating a try."
The seven recipes included in My Food Bag's first Plant Power meal kit include Caesar Haloumi Burgers, Malaysian Coconut and Lime Laksa, Caramelised Onion "Sausie" Rolls, Mexican Roasted Cauliflower Tacos, Korean Sticky Tofu Bites, Falafel and Roast Veggie Tray Bake and Sundried Tomato Pappardelle.
Bell says the recipes, which include three fully vegetarian meals, will change every week: "We want to keep things fresh so people don't feel like they are eating the same meals all the time. Previously our plant-based meals were a chef's choice, so now with seven options every week people get much more variety.
"Really, they are seeking meals which still look great and taste delicious with flavours almost as interesting as they know they could enjoy when they dine out, but which don't require the emotional energy and time investment involved in meal planning, grocery shopping, and hours of fussy meal prep.
"They still enjoy the act of cooking, after all food is one of their joys in life, but even for them, it's all a bit taxing finding new inspiration night after night."
With the bags delivered to your door, My Food Bag is offering 50 per cent off your first Plant-Power food bag order with code PLANT50 and a FREE Lemon Strawberry Poppy Seed Cake Kit from The Caker for those who order three deliveries. *T&Cs apply
For more information go to: My Plant Power
# The Kantar survey was conducted last December in which 1517 people were questioned about the issues they care most deeply about - 19 per cent saying they mostly opt for plant-based meals.