VEGETARIAN FOOD SALES SHOW GROWTH

CHICAGO - Vegetarian food sales in the United States are forecast to increase at an inflation-adjusted annual rate of 3.6% through 2010, according to Mintel, an international research group here.In fact, Mintel forecasts U.S. sales of vegetarian food to grow to more than $1.7 billion in the next five years.Healthy growth is on the horizon even though just 3% of the more than 1,000 adult respondents

CHICAGO - Vegetarian food sales in the United States are forecast to increase at an inflation-adjusted annual rate of 3.6% through 2010, according to Mintel, an international research group here.

In fact, Mintel forecasts U.S. sales of vegetarian food to grow to more than $1.7 billion in the next five years.

Healthy growth is on the horizon even though just 3% of the more than 1,000 adult respondents called themselves strict vegetarians or vegans in a 2005 Mintel study. Consumers who are just cutting down on their consumption of meat are expected to keep vegetarian food sales surging, the study indicated.

That spells good news for marketers of fresh produce, probably even more so than for manufacturers of meat substitutes.

Indeed, Mintel forecasts U.S. sales of meat and poultry substitutes to grow at an inflation-adjusted annual rate of just 0.1% through 2010.

The report showed that of 95 adults whose diet is "usually or strictly vegetarian or vegan," a full 84% said they prefer food that does not contain any meat substitutes. Eight out of 10 of those 95 adults in the study who described their diet as vegetarian or vegan said they have adopted the eating plan for health reasons.

Mintel researchers underscored the importance of part-time vegetarians, or "flexitarians."

"An aging population will contribute to the growth of the vegetarian food markets as more boomers embrace the concept of occasional vegetarianism," Mintel's report noted.