Rise of the meat-free Christmas: Marks & Spencer's 2017 festive menu contains more vegetarian main courses than meat

20 September 2017

For years it has been the day of the year when vegetarians and vegans are most likely to feel like a pariah at the dinner table.

But now bland nut loaves have been consigned to history as Marks and Spencer is showcasing more meat-free Christmas dinner main courses on its new menu than meat options.

The supermarket said it is hoping that its growing "flexitarian" customer base will swap traditional turkey for its new range of gourmet plant-based Christmas dinners - even if they are not full time vegetarians. 

An M&S spokesman said: "In the past vegetarians were limited to nut roasts at Christmas, but not anymore. Our vegetarian options are so amazing that we hope people will choose them over meat options even if they are not full time vegetarians."

“The rise of the ‘vegievore’ and ‘flexitarian’ means that as a country we’re experimenting more with new vegetables and people are less afraid to try something different. 

“Vegetarian and vegans shouldn’t feel like they are missing out - now veg can be the star of the show!”

It comes after flexitarianism - eating predominantly, but not strictly, vegetarian - has proved to be one of the biggest food trends of 2017 with one in three people actively reducing their meat intake.

M&S's 2017 Christmas dinner select range of main courses includes three vegetarian options include baked ricotta stacks with mushrooms, leeks and kale, seasonal squash bake, and butternut squash and sweet potato rosti, as well as a vegan butternut and beetroot filo parcels.

Three meat dishes on offer are Pembrokshire bronze whole turkey, British oakham turkey crown with pork, chestnut, bacon and thyme stuffing, and beef rump with horseradish wrapped in prosciutto.

M&S said an extended range of meat and non-meat options would also be available in store, details of which have yet to be confirmed. 

By contrast Waitrose's 2017 Christmas dinner range contains 11 main course options, just one of which is meat-free. 

Sainsbury's eight-strong range of 2017 festive main courses contains just one vegetarian option, two fish and five meat dishes. 

Tesco is showcasing seven options including one vegetarian option which is a mushroom wellington. John Royale, chief livestock adviser at the National Farmers' Union, described M&S's meat-free Christmas menu as "a sign of the times".

He said: "M&S have historically been big supporters of British meat but they are just being realistic about the fact that more of their customers want meat-free options.  

"The flexitarian diet is the biggest threat to British meat - more so that than vegetarian diet and this seems to be the way that society is going. If they are willing to swap traditional Christmas dinners for vegetarian options that is a big sign of change."

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