What 2020 taught us about the strength of the vegan food industry | The Vegan Society

What 2020 taught us about the strength of the vegan food industry

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» What 2020 taught us about the strength of the vegan food industry

2020 is a year which none of us will forget

As that chapter has now closed, we can look back at the success stories within the vegan food and drinks industry that the previous 12 months have given us.

We remain hopeful that challenges often bring new opportunities. January was welcomed with a renewed partnership with Veganuary, and an excitement to see many more vegan products launched throughout the year.

The pre-pandemic months 

In January 2020, it was reported that the UK is the global leader for new vegan food launches. Our claim to the title was a result of nearly one in four (23%) new products launched in the UK throughout 2019 having a vegan claim (in 2018 this figure was 17%). The cumulative effect of these successes led to Mintel reporting vegan food sales had soared 40% in 2019 – a very impressive start to the year.

Prior to national lockdown, in February Quorn experienced unprecedented demand for products, as a huge surge in popularity outstripped supply. Little did we know that this was soon to become an issue for nearly every food product across the country.

UK enters lockdown

With the Covid-19 pandemic increasing in severity across the globe, UK shoppers began to panic, and the industry desperately sought ways to manage the problem.

In April, our research found that 20% of Brits were reducing their meat consumption, and 15% were cutting down their dairy/egg consumption. Encouragingly, 43% cited health, environmental or animal rights reasons as their primary motivation, and 41% did so due to their usual products not being available on supermarket shelves.

In the same month, we interviewed TheVeganKind, who told us that their average order value was up 40% compared to the previous month. Later in the year, they upgraded to a new warehouse three times the size of the last and employed over 20 extra members of staff to manage continued demand. 

A very different British summer

As we entered a summer like no other, Kantar found that in the 12 weeks leading to June, tofu sales had increased 81.7%, vegan mince sales increased 50.1%, vegan burger sales increased 37% and vegan sausage sales increased 21.3%. And it wasn’t just the meat alternatives that were having a moment – in July Waitrose revealed that online searches for ‘oat milk’ were up 210%, and sales of oat milk up 113%, compared to 2019.

At this point, you may be thinking, “of course vegan food and drinks sales were up, most food and drink sales were up this year”. Luckily, our friends at Veganuary have us covered. At an online event, they revealed that whilst ‘meat/fish meals’ were up 24% in August compared to the previous year, ‘plant-based meals’ were up 52% – meaning vegan food was selling at a rate over double that of their non-vegan counterparts.

Second UK lockdown

As autumn approached, in September Asda hit national headlines by announcing they will become the first UK supermarket to launch an ambient vegan aisle. Soon after, Tesco went public with their ambitious goals to boost sales of meat alternatives by 300%. In the same month, it was revealed that Applewood vegan cheese is the second most searched for vegan product in the UK, accounting for 20% of Applewood’s UK sales.

In October, as the nights got colder, Veganuary hit a milestone achievement of one million participants. Soon after, Deliveroo revealed that vegan orders have more than doubled in the last year, increasing by 115%. Additionally, research from Eating Better found that 16% of ready-meals in supermarkets are now plant-based, compared to just 3% in 2018.

November saw Unilever – one of the biggest consumer goods companies in the UK – announce that they want to increase annual sales of vegan meat and dairy products five-fold within the next seven years. To end the year, in December new research from Applewood found that 20% of respondents would be cooking a completely vegan Christmas dinner and a staggering 74% would be looking for vegan cheese to complete their festive spread. Additionally, Waitrose stated that pre-orders of vegan Christmas foods were up 700% compared to 2019.

Despite the turbulence of 2020, let this be a reminder that the vegan food and drinks industry is resilient. This year, 2021 brings its own challenges to the table. But we know that the strength of the industry – and our supportive community – will keep veganism in the public eye and part of a kinder future.

You can download our handy infographic, with most of the above information, here

By Vegan Society Insight and Commercial Policy Officer, Louisianna Waring

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