Almost half (44%) of people are either willing to cut down the amount of meat in their diet or have already done so, according to a YouGov study of 1700 adults.
The research was conducted on behalf of Eating Better, an alliance of groups promoting a healthy diet and sustainable farming.
The study revealed a generational divide, with nearly half (48%) of young people aged 18-24 saying they are aware of the environmental impact of eating meat, compared to just 20% of those aged over 65.
Respondents wanted to see restaurants and fast food chains offering a wider variety of meat-free options.
Eating Better said restaurants that avoided labelling dishes as vegetarian or vegan and instead described items as ‘light’ or ‘fresh’ were more likely to see a rise in meat-free sales.
High street brands including JD Wetherspoon and EAT have extended their plant-based options in the last few years to cater to the growing number of flexitarians.
Zizzi has launched a vegan pizza with ‘cheese’ made from germinated rice, while Pret A Manger opened its second vegetarian-only store in London this year.
The trend is also beginning to reach high-end restaurants. Gauthier Soho became the first fine-dining site in London to permanently offer a fully vegan tasting menu for £65 a head last year.
“As more people are eating less meat, we welcome the steps that an increasing number of food businesses are taking to respond, and we encourage them to go further,” said Sue Dibb of the Eating Better alliance.
“But many food companies are missing out on the business opportunities offered by the huge rise in flexitarian eating – we encourage them to get involved.”
The Vegan Society says the number of vegans in the UK has more than tripled to over half a million in the last ten years.