As the Veganuary campaign hits a major milestone in its mission, Rosie Greenaway interviews one brand which has been driving innovation for the meat-free movement for 30 years, and rounds up some must-haves for a well-stocked plant-based pantry 

With the zeitgeist of current times firmly centred around sustainability and the climate emergency, it’s no surprise that vegetarian and vegan foods retain their vice grip of the market, with new products hitting shelves virtually every day. 

Did you happen to catch the launch of Aqua Cultured Foods’ mycoprotein calamari? Created using microbial fermentation technology, it’s said to mimic the real appearance, taste and texture of squid, delivering ‘the first whole-muscle cut, sushi-quality seafood alternative’. Or how about Mimic Seafood’s ground-breaking new eggplant-based fish alternative, the AubergEel? 

With innovation as advanced as this grabbing buyers’ attention it would be easy to miss some of the broader developments, both domestically and globally, which steer the sector’s narrative as much as the products themselves. 

Let’s recap on some of the headlines from 2022. 

News and views
There are concerns that Britain risks falling behind China in the alt-meat market, according to the Social Market Foundation, which blames a lack of ‘coherent strategy’ in Whitehall for the slow development of alternative proteins. 

The popularity of plant-based foods is so strong in UK society today that half of Brits are limiting their meat intake or aren’t eating it at all, according to Mintel, resulting in soaring demand for vegan BBQ recipes over the summer. And of the previously non-vegan participants who signed up for Veganuary 2022, a record-breaking 83% said afterwards that they planned to ‘permanently change their diet’ by either remaining vegan or at least halving their animal product intake – clearly a milestone moment for the movement.

In the public sector we’re seeing a ‘school food revolution’; more than five million meat-free meals have been served in schools since the start of ProVeg UK’s School Plates programme in 2018. And while this adoption of plant-based catering is down to decisions made by adults within local authority departments, a nationwide study by Linda McCartney’s shows a ripple effect at home, where 14% of kids now ‘insist’ that their parents cook less meat at dinner time and 11% of children ‘demand’ that their household becomes vegetarian. 

All of this is leading to reduced appetite for processed meats, which won’t be pleasing its producers in the slightest. Sceptics have suggested that this may be the reason why so many countries are now banning ‘meaty terms’ for vegan alternatives – such as sausages. ProVeg International calls it an attempt to ‘protect animal-based industries’ and says it will ‘only serve to further encourage the animal agriculture industry at a time when the consumption of meat needs to be reduced’. South Africa was a recent addition to the list; as stipulated by the South African Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, names such as ‘plant-based meatballs’, ‘veggie biltong’ and ‘vegan nuggets’ are no longer permitted. 

“If you’re using something that looks like a burger … it’s going to be a ‘burger’ in your house – never mind what the law says”

Biona Organic co-founder Noel McDonald tells NPN he sees these bans as ‘a defensive move from the dairy and meat industry’. “That’s what’s behind it, and you can understand; obviously they are fed up [seeing] their sales going down. So I do get why they want to defend.” 

In France, McDonald notes, one argument for banning certain terminology was to avoid consumer confusion over the nutritional profile of vegan alternatives. “I think that’s a weak argument,” he says, adding that ‘it doesn’t really matter in the end’. “If you’re using something that looks like a burger … in your cooking, well, it’s going to be a ‘burger’ in your house – never mind what the law says. I don’t think it’s going to affect the vegan movement.”

30 years of Biona
Another hot topic in the vegan space is organic – because of course one doesn’t necessarily include the other where product innovation is concerned. Biona’s proposition happens to be both, and McDonald says although you could see it as negative that vegan products aren’t always organic, the vegan movement alone has had significant impact in terms of climate and animal welfare.

Having hit its 30th anniversary milestone this year, Biona has created a cookbook (free of charge for retailers to share with their customers) featuring plant-based recipes which are the staff’s personal favourites. Throughout the year the marketing team has been celebrating the brand’s heritage, whilst carrying out a major rebrand of approximately 400 products. But although the appearance of the Biona range has changed, it’s clear when speaking to McDonald that the essence of this family business has always remained the same – rooted in family, environment, community, wholesome food and solid ethics. “We definitely know the natural products industry from lots of different sides – as consumers first off, then as retailers, then as brand owners. [It’s] good … to have the different perspectives on it.”

Staying flexible
While Biona spans three decades, parent company Windmill Organics has been operational for some 44 years, positioning McDonald better than most to comment on the evolution of the health food trade over that time. One observation he makes relates to vegetarian versus vegan, and why the two movements haven’t quite seen the same levels of mainstream success. “Obviously the vegetarian movement has been there for a long, long time. I am, to be honest, a little bit puzzled about why the vegan movement suddenly seemed to catch on with people. I think there is that environmental side – that came up quite strong with Cowspiracy and these kinds of videos that came out about … the meat industry. I think that has had a lot to do with the spread of veganism. Whereas obviously [with] vegetarian you’ve got the dairy … so it wasn’t as clear a message.” 

Vegetarian messaging may have been more ambiguous than vegan, but veganism has also benefited from the influence of modern marketing. The figures prove that campaigns such as Veganuary are powerful tools which engage, educate and sway the public about the reality of living a vegan lifestyle, as opposed to common perception of it.

Lauren Smith, Biona’s marketing communications planner, says that the brand’s most loyal shoppers are actually flexitarian, and its focus is on making the products as accessible and inclusive as possible. “From our marketing perspective, it’s more about encouraging the switch to plant-based options. There’s no black or white, no ‘you should’ or ‘you shouldn’t’ be vegan. It’s just providing that option for consumers.”

“The main thing is that [we’re] providing really tasty food; once people taste it, they think, ‘Wow, this is really good, I can incorporate this into my lifestyle without any problem at all’,” adds McDonald. “That whole flexitarian way of approaching food has been good; it shows people that vegan food can be really tasty. If you try it once a month and you think ‘I wouldn’t mind eating that anytime because it’s really … satisfying and nutritious’, that’s the main thing.”

For many brands, when the news broke about Tree of Life entering administration it signalled turmoil; but for Biona the fallout hasn’t been entirely negative. “We’ve had some positives out of it. Whole Foods Market have come direct to us because of the consistency of supply that we can offer. Planet Organic have come direct to us as well. So we have had some interesting developments there in building relationships with key retailers. I think there will be a time of adjustment, but other wholesalers around the country will pick up the business that Tree of Life and The Health Store were doing. 

“There was some dis-ruption in trade with Ireland … but we’ve set up a company in Holland to supply the Irish market so that we get around all of the Brexit issues. That’s working really well now. We’ve got a warehouse there; they store everything, and it gets picked and shipped out to Ireland and other European countries.”


Alara Full Catalogue

Alara Wholefoods Ltd
Tel: 020 7255 9978
E-mail: [email protected]

In 2020 Alara decided to become a fully vegan brand and since then all our muesli and granola recipes are suitable for all, including those on a plant-based diet. As well as being 100% vegan we now included details of how all our products are net zero carbon. Alara wants everyone to enjoy a nutritious bowl of cereals regardless of their diet and climate concern.  Manufacturing a delicious, sustainable and great value breakfast has always been central to our mission.


New Two Truffle Packs

Tel: 01508 558888
E-mail:  [email protected]

Three of the newest Booja-Booja chocolate truffle flavours are now available in Two Truffle Packs. Chocolate Salted Caramel (2-Star Great Taste Award Winner), Honeycomb Caramel (Natural & Organic Awards Europe Winner) and Chocolate Orange (Gold Free From Food Award Winner) are all now being packed in bright, colourful Two Truffle Packs. Perfect for on-the-go treating, these tempting Two Packs are ideal for Veganuary as they offer a delicious and affordable ‘swap’ for consumers looking for an exquisite little chocolate treat. Just £1.39 RRP.


Bonsan Organic Spread Range 

Windmill Organics
Tel: 0208 547 2775

These organic, award-winning Bonsan savoury spreads are a delicious addition to vegan cheeseboards and can be used as a dip for crudités to accompany Christmas buffet foods, making them perfect for seasonal occasions. Made using 100% organic and natural ingredients, these palm fat free products address the growing consumer demand for healthier plant-based alternatives. Available to stock now.


Chocolate with personality

Tel: 07454 494999
E-mail:  [email protected]

As a chef pâtissier Rodrigue Joab was shocked by the incredible amount of disease and intolerance that people are facing with no choices of a healthier lifestyle. Certainly, we are searching for less sugar, additives, or preservative content. Meanwhile Lactose, Casein, Soy intolerance is silently increasing. Our R&D and technology create a new way of thinking about the future of sweet and health with the idea of reducing fat and sugar without compromising on flavour or texture.Chef Rodrigue shares his innovation through a uniquely designed intense, organic, vegan, natural, not sweet and not bitter premium vintage organic craft bean-to-bar dark chocolate. 

Winner of nine of the most prestigious national and international awards such as: 

• The Best Organic Chocolate in the Market 2021
• The Best Craft Organic Bean-to-bar Chocolate Producer 2021
• International Bronze Awards 2021
• The Best Luxury Lifestyle Awards 2021
• 2 International Gold Awards 2021
• Gold London Awards 2022
• 2 International Gold Awards 2022 

 Patisserie-conseil’s chocolate is supported by some celebrities and validated by some well-known chefs such as Philippe Parc (World champion in dessert making – MOF ‘Best craft worker in France’ – Bronze world championship), Richard Cubbin (Executive chef UK) and Eric Robert (MOF Best craft worker in France) teacher at the prestigious culinary school Ferrandi Paris.   

We are passionate about the quality and character of our chocolate because within the simplest of products the true quality of ingredients can shine. We also use Eco-friendly packaging.

We only work with the finest cacao beans therefore they contain the most intense and complex flavours. Each cacao bean offers different nuances of flavour making them truly unique; every bite is a guilt-free indulgence. 

Surprise your guests with a perfect gift – a unique experience for every lovely celebration. 


Vegan Beauty from Heritage Store

Heritage Store
Tel: 0800 0851 697

Leaders in soul-to-skin beauty since 1969, Heritage Store’s Rosewater and Castor Oil collections deliver good energy, transcendent vibes, and a healthy glow – inside and out.

Renowned for its cult favourite Facial Mists, the vegan Rosewater beauty range also includes Rosewater & Vinegar, Rosewater Toner, a lightweight gel-cream Rosewater Moisturiser to hydrate the skin and milky Rosewater Cleanser. Heritage Store’s pure, vegan and 100% cold-pressed Castor Oil products are also a favourite with beauty influencers, as treatment to moisturise hair and make brows look fuller, stronger, and shinier. 

Available from CLF, Jumla and Independent Irish Health Foods or contact 0800 0851 697.


Free and Easy Vegan Christmas 

Healthy Food Brands
Tel: 01403 786460
E-mail:  [email protected]

Free and Easy gives home cooks a helping hand when it comes to creating delicious and nutritious dishes. Free from wheat, gluten and dairy, nuts, celery and mustard but bursting with full-on flavour and made without artificial additives and preservatives. It is also low in salt, sugar and fat and is vegetarian and vegan friendly.

We have got Christmas Dinner covered, Our Yorkshire Pudding Mix is free from all major allergens and made with chickpea flour for an authentic texture, perfectly paired with our vegetable based gravy mix and dairy free cheese sauce mix, the perfect vegan and free from Christmas dinner at home. Available at all Health Food Stores, Online Retailers and Major Supermarkets


Clearspring Organic Vegan Essentials Range

[email protected]

Japanese and organic fine foods brand Clearspring is urging retailers to stock-up on its Vegan Essentials range this January, to take advantage of the popular and growing annual Veganuary campaign. All of Clearspring’s products are plant-based, however their Vegan Essentials range has proven especially popular throughout the month-long campaign in previous years. This includes Clearspring Organic Japanese Silken Tofu, Organic Soya Chunks & Soya Mince, Organic Jackfruit Chunks, their Organic Coconut range which includes Coconut Oil and Coconut Milk, Organic Gluten Free Noodles, Organic Japanese Miso and their Sea Vegetables range.
The Veganuary campaign, which encourages people to try going vegan for 31 days, has played a very important role in helping to amplify the vegan and plant-based message and taken it to a much wider, mainstream audience. In January 2022, Veganuary inspired and supported over 620,000 people to try vegan. 

The annual campaign gives businesses a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of the heightened awareness and consumer interest in plant-based products around Veganuary. It can help to drive more traffic into stores and grow incremental sales, all while supporting shoppers looking to include more plant-based food in their diets.
To support, encourage and inspire people throughout Veganuary, Clearspring is launching a Tofu recipe campaign, posting a different way to use their Silken Tofu across its social media channels every day in January.
Clearspring has been a plant-based business since day one, when the company was founded in 1993. Alongside its plant-based credentials, Clearspring’s is also:

• Organic
• Added refined sugar free
• Free from all artificial ingredients and additives
• Supporting artisanal producers

Clearspring has a wide variety of assets available to retailers including in-store free standing display unit, point of sale materials, product leaflets, recipe cards as well as a wide variety of digital assets for use across retailers’ website and social media channels.