Veganuary sign-ups reach 540,000: How has COVID-19 propelled the movement?
Brands are unveiling plant-based NPD to support consumers going vegan for January and beyond
11 Jan 2021 --- Veganuary – a UK organization encouraging consumers to go vegan for January – has topped 540,000 global sign-ups, with that number still growing.
According to Toni Vernelli, global head of communications and marketing at Veganuary, this year, the number of people committing to 31 days of meat-free eating has risen significantly, in part driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s cohort is already the biggest since the pledge began in 2014. According to the organization, sign-ups have slowed down but are still steady compared to the start of the month, where one person every three seconds was signing up.
NPD has been booming in the sector, in line with Innova Market Insights’ Top Trend for 2021, “Plant-Forward.”
“We know that nearly one in every two UK households have bought meat-free products over the last year and Veganuary is a great movement to support this,” Victoria Southern, marketing and category director at Kerry Foods, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
Gill Riley, marketing director at Quorn Foods says, “there’s a proven halo effect to Veganuary which leads to more people taking part than signing up and the campaign recently achieved one million sign-ups since its conception.”
A year for positive change?
Veganuary is urging consumers to embrace the opportunity for positive change.
Their message is echoed by Jane Goodall, Ricky Gervais, Paul McCartney, John Bishop, Sara Pascoe, Chris Packham, Chrissie Hynde and over 100 international celebrities, politicians, NGOs and businesses.
They recently signed a joint letter calling on people to help fight climate chaos and prevent future pandemics by changing their eating habits.
“2020 brought much hardship and heartbreak, but it has also allowed us to change and build a better future,” says Vernelli.
“The Veganuary pledge offers people a way to take positive action to protect our health and our planet, as well as help prevent future pandemics. The huge response we’ve had this year shows us it’s exactly what many people need right now.”
“Consumers have become focused on improving their health, and a plant-based diet is known to help reduce some of the risk factors associated with the severe novel coronavirus including Type 2 diabetes and obesity,” Vernelli tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“Our consumption of animal products and destruction of nature are heavily linked with the outbreak of pandemics, so many consumers are adopting a plant-based diet to reduce the risk of future pandemics. It’s an opportunity to take positive action at a time when so much is out of our control,” she explains.
For the past few years, the number of participants reporting that they plan to stay vegan after January has been around 50 percent, according to figures from the non-profit organization.
Eyeing more than just health
For Vernelli, the best part of being involved in the Veganuary movement is hearing about all the positive stories from participants who saw improvements in their personal life.
“These improvements include the discovery of new and exciting foods, making new friends, improved athletic performance, clearer skin, a brighter mood, more energy and better sleep,” she says.
At the start of the month, many brands unveiled their NPD launches to support people's quest to consume less meat.
“We’re thrilled to see so many new vegan products and menu launches this month,” Vernelli notes.
“Veganuary’s role is to help people choose plant-based foods, whether their motivation is health, planet, people or animals. It is much easier to persuade people to try vegan if there is plenty of great-tasting, high-quality food readily available in shops and restaurants,” she says.
Support from The Vegan Society
According to Louisianna Waring, insight and commercial policy officer at The Vegan Society, plant-based products and vegan issues will continue to remain high on the agenda in 2021.
“Supermarkets, restaurants and food manufacturers are more aware than ever before of the huge demand for plant-based food. F&B businesses have played a huge role in mainstream veganism, and innovative products keep veganism fresh in people’s minds while also increasing accessibility,” she tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“At the same time, we remind people that there is more to veganism than delicious food, and we can all play a role in creating a kinder future for all living beings.”
Last April, The Vegan Society conducted consumer research looking at how the pandemic had affected the purchase and consumption of vegan products.
“We looked at a sample of 1,000 UK consumers who said they had cut down on their meat and dairy/egg consumption and found that 41.5 percent had recently tried almond milk, and 38 percent had tested out meat alternatives. As lockdowns continue in the UK into 2021, this will be an area we will continue to monitor,” Waring notes.
“The numbers of restaurants and retailers increasing their vegan lines for Veganuary has been incredible. As sales soar, we expect many of these items to become permanent fixtures for these businesses.”
Launches which The Vegan Society has been most excited about are Crackd – “the no egg egg,” and the Bounty Vegan and Topic Vegan bars. “The industry has come so far these last few years,” adds Waring.
In order for retailers to tap into the growing number of consumers looking to reduce their meat intake Naked Glory, part of Kerry Foods, has expanded its range. No-Beef Strips and Chick’n Burgers have been launched.
Fridge Raiders, also part of Kerry Foods, has debuted its vegan-friendly Veggie Bites. Available in UK supermarkets this month, these vegetable-based snacks come in three flavors – Simply Seasoned, Mexican Heatwave and Indian Masala.
Ticking the box for every occasion
Kerry Foods is evolving its meat-free ranges for Veganuary and beyond to cater to what consumers want: meat-free alternatives for every occasion.
“That’s why across all our brands – from Naked Glory to Richmond Sausages and Fridge Raiders – we are looking at new ways to offer a wide variety of choices for consumers at different price points that cater to all dietary preferences,” Southern explains.
“So, when we launched our latest meat-free products, we wanted to support Veganuary and allow retailers to drive sales during this period by capitalizing on new products from brands consumers already know and love,” she notes.
For Kerry Foods, innovating in plant-based foods means exploring different proteins. While soy has been a front-runner in meat-free, the company is exploring alternative proteins – including pea and wheat protein – to develop NPD and innovate in new directions, says Southern.
She believes there is still huge potential to stimulate further growth within the category through unlocking untapped occasions.
“Our ambition is to have a meat-free alternative for every mealtime, and there are still gaps and white space we can capitalize upon within the meat-free arena, so we need to ensure we have a strong pipeline of NPD which tastes great and will entice consumers.”
According to Southern, COVID-19 has cemented and reinforced the trend toward meat-free, with the category seeing a more significant uplift during the initial national lockdown than in Veganuary 2020.
“With shoppers spending more time at home, eating more of their meals at home and having more time to cook from scratch, we see a rise in consumers experimenting at mealtimes and introducing plant-based recipes to their repertoires,” she further explains.
Quorn’s “halo effect”
Quorn’s new Vegan Peri-Peri Strips and Vegan Turkish Kebabs are available from the chilled meat-free aisle in Sainsbury’s stores and Asda stores.
For Quorn, Veganuary is a significant time of year – in both awareness and sales.
“In the past, we’ve had great success in launching partnerships with KFC and especially Greggs with the notorious vegan sausage roll. This year we are gearing up to launch a new product range of our own to celebrate – called Quorn Makes Amazing – which we have created to celebrate how exciting and flavorsome everyday food can be,” Riley explains. l
“We expect interest in meat-free diets to continue to grow. It’s now or never – we must all play our part in changing our planet and future needs,” adds Riley.
“We want to build on the UK’s rising enthusiasm toward meat-free and show them that together, we can all play our part in creating a healthier world.”
“Society is very aware of the climate issues we currently face as a planet, but now is the time to act. Every year is pivotal to our hopes of addressing the crisis before it’s too late, and, in 2021, we encourage everyone to stand up and be counted for the future of both our people and planet,” she affirms.
The Vegan Society reported early in the pandemic that one in five Brits were cutting down on meat consumption. According to Riley, there was “a significant increase in our frozen sales, up 60 percent at its peak, with Quorn Crispy Nuggets seeing a 33 percent sales increase in the first four weeks of the UK’s lockdown.”
This has started to level out, but there’s a sustained interest in meat-free diets, and events like Veganuary are an essential tool, Riley stresses.
Oat, peas and fava in the spotlight
Taco Bell has partnered with Finland-based Gold&Green Pulled Oats to launch a plant-based range.
Available in all 53 Taco Bell UK restaurants, the Mexican-inspired restaurant is extending its offering to meet the growing demand for meatless meals. Deliciously healthy and packed with protein and fiber, Gold&Green’s plant-based protein Pulled Oats is a mix of oats, peas and fava beans.
Simon Solway, retail country manager for Gold&Green Foods, says “there’s been a wave of product innovation in manufacturing and major operators – including Pulled Oats on the menu at Taco Bell expanding their offerings, which is only going to fuel demand and interest even further.
There’s also the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact nearly 12 months later, we’re still trying to beat it. The pandemic has and continues to show us just how vital our health is and that we must care for our planet. With all these influences, we’re anticipating 2021 to be the biggest year yet for plant-based,” Solway comments.
COVID-19 put the demand for meat and dairy alternatives into overdrive, he continues. “Interest had been steadily growing for the last five years, but 2020 was the year our health and well-being became our top priority, and we all went ‘a little vegan.’”
By Elizabeth Green
To contact our editorial team please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.