With celebs investing in vegan brands, certified launches rising, availability improving, and the eco benefits being brought sharply into focus, the plant-based sector has never looked healthier, says Jane Wolfe
The Vegan Society predicts that 13 million British adults will be following a meat-free diet by the end of this year. According to its research, one in four Brits cut back on consuming animal products during COVID, with 35% being mainly motivated by health concerns, 30% by the environment, and 21% citing animal rights issues.
Euromonitor’s Tom Rees confirms that health concerns and COVID are major drivers in the avoidance of animal products, adding: “While the number of vegan or vegetarian consumers is small globally, the number of people who are trying to limit their animal product consumption is much more significant – for meat this has now reached 23% (approaching one in four) globally. It is these flexitarian consumers who have been driving the shift from animal towards plant.”
Vegan goes mainstream
Vegan options have certainly become a mainstream conversation, with Nestlé unveiling KitKat V and trialling plant-based shrimp alternative Vrimp, Mexicana Vegan becoming the first vegan cheese to appear in Tesco’s Grab and Go Delis, the McPlant burger being served up by McDonald’s, and Birds Eye creating Fishless Fingers.
Not only are household names dipping their toes into the plant-based pool, but celeb interest has been piqued too. Jay Z has invested in Misha’s Kind Foods, Impossible Foods and Oatly; Heura received backing from Roma footballer, Chris Smalling; Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson invested in Abbot’s Butcher; and Leonardo DiCaprio’s investments include Beyond Meat.
To reflect this developing sector, online supermarket The Vegan Kind (TVK) has undergone a rebrand to appeal to a wider audience. “The way I look at it, everyone is at least a little bit vegan,” says founder Scott McCulloch. “We all know fruit and vegetables are good for us, right? Whether people say they are ‘plant-based’ or ‘flexitarian’ or ‘reducetarian’ – almost everyone right now is considering their dietary intake and what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint. The rebrand focused on delivering our messaging such as ‘plant-based for the planet’ and ‘sustainable shopping made simple’, with bright, fun colours to give us a broader appeal.”
McCulloch believes having the term ‘vegan’ on packaging not only helps consumers identify products quickly but can be ‘an added comfort blanket’, especially if the product has been certified. In fact, The Vegan Society says that 97% of vegans and vegetarians look for independent vegan verification on food and drink products, and in April the Vegan Trademark officially registered its 50,000th product, with 15,206 products registered in 2020 alone.
But uncertified products can be harder to identify. “Often it’s not easy to determine whether the products are 100% vegan, and that is the gap that The Vegan Kind fills,” says McCulloch. “We have done all that work for our customers, and whether the product is certified as ‘vegan’ or not, our customers are sure all products are 100% vegan.”
The name game
Labels may matter on-pack, but how important are they when it comes to defining who’s buying these products?
McCulloch sees his customers as being at different stages on the same path. “Almost everyone who is vegan now was once a meat-eater or at least vegetarian. So, someone who is investigating plant-based foods currently may well be vegan next year. At TVK, we’re non-judgemental. We are inclusive to all who feel that vegan/plant-based is a positive choice,” he explains.
“Some people who define themselves as ‘vegan’ seem to take exception to the term plant-based so you may want to consider the definition you use in your business,” explains Louise Palmer-Masterton, founder of plant-based restaurant Stem & Glory. “It’s true that the plant-based term was coined to make plant-based appealing for health reasons without getting into the ethical debate, but does that really mean that vegans are more ethical than those defining as plant-based?
“This is something that comes up often, most recently because our new tagline is ‘gloriously plant-based’. I get asked frequently if that means I’ve abandoned veganism. For me the two things mean the same … we are all about wholefood plant-based ingredients, ethically sourced, low carbon, circular, compassionate and cruelty-free. So, is that vegan or plant-based? And what is the difference anyway?”
“Since we know the data proves a vegan diet to be effective in fighting climate change, it’s our responsibility to act”
The term vegan wasn’t clearly defined until the 1980s, says Palmer-Masterton, to encompass a way of living seeking to exclude all forms of animal exploitation. Around this time the term ‘plant-based’ was also coined, describing a wholefood plant-based diet with health benefits.
“In other words, veganism is about the abstention from animal products, not necessarily with reference to healthy foods, whereas wholefood plant-based is very much focused around the health benefits of following the diet,” says Palmer-Masterton. “So, it looks like vegans in this case do have the ethical high ground, but from that perspective, it looks like I, and Stem & Glory, are neither vegan or wholefood plant-based, but rather vegan and wholefood plant-based. I would suggest the term plant-based has contributed significantly to the rise in popularity of veganism, and that they share responsibility for the rise of interest in the vegan movement with regard to animal welfare and health … I do think we will see wholefood plant-based and veganism converging.”
In a bid to highlight the fact that it’s never been easier to incorporate plant-based options into daily life, in November LoveRaw called for World Vegan Month to be ‘cancelled’, encouraging Brits instead to become ‘unvegan vegans’. “We’re not cancelling being vegan,” explains founder Rimi Thapar. “We just think there are so many great brands serving you delicious plant-based options … We say why be perfect just for one month when being imperfect all year round is better? We call this being an unvegan vegan. Being an unvegan vegan 24/7, 365 has a huge impact and it’s not a big ‘all-in-one-go’ approach which can be daunting.”
Elephant in the room
With increasing evidence of the environmental benefits of a plant-based diet, Heura addressed what it called ‘the elephant in the room’ at COP26 by projection-mapping a 140ft foot elephant onto the Scottish Power Building in Glasgow to bring to life the stats and facts – ie ‘Plant-based diet = reduced food carbon footprint of 73%’ – it says world leaders refused to discuss at the event, which itself served up a noticeably meat- and dairy-heavy menu.
“Since we know the data proves a vegan diet to be effective in fighting climate change, it’s our responsibility to act,” says co-founder Marc Coloma. “World leaders need to prioritize protecting the planet … and start having real debates … about the best ways to transition the population to a more plant-based diet.”
COP26 also saw publicity for Veganuary 2022 kick off, with adverts across Glasgow which declared ‘Houston, We Have a Solution’, and urged ‘cut your carbon emission with every meal’. This message was backed by scientists and environmentalists including Chris Packham, Greenpeace UK and Professor Peter Smith of ClimateXChange.
The main campaign launches on 8 December with a message from Packham encouraging people to help fight climate change by signing up for Veganuary. All participants this year will receive a new Low Carbon Meal Plan which shows how much carbon can be saved with simple swaps.
Our focus this campaign is to give people as much help and support as possible, all in our trademark fun, friendly and non-judgemental way
“Climate change is on everyone’s mind. We all want to do our bit to help and we know that changing our diets is crucial” explains Veganuary’s Toni Vernelli. “But changing our habits can be a little daunting – that’s where Veganuary comes in! Our focus this campaign is to give people as much help and support as possible, all in our trademark fun, friendly and non-judgemental way. We know this approach works as 82% of our 2021 participants were still eating more than 50% less meat and other animal products six months after completing their Veganuary pledge. Collectively this is having a huge impact in the fight against climate change.”
The charity has updated its Business Support Toolkit and is encouraging retailers to get in touch for bespoke support and send their Veganuary news for its social channels.
October saw a new voice for the sector with the launch of Plant-based Food Alliance UK, founded by Alpro, Oatly, ProVeg UK, Upfield and The Vegan Society. Aiming to develop a UK Plant-based Food Charter to outline how businesses and Government can unite to support the uptake in plant-based diets, its goals include: transparent environmental labelling; public health campaigns; and support for farmers to transition.
“We need to see plans put in place for making our food choices more sustainable, and plant-based foods are the most impactful way of achieving this,” says alliance CEO Marisa Heath.
The healthy presence of plant-based products across Natural & Organic Products Europe has inspired a dedicated area – Vegan World – to provide ‘a plant-based powerhouse of innovation’. “The variety of plant-based products continues to innovate for a wide range of appetites – from flexitarians to eco-conscious consumers – which is why we have an extensive choice of vegan products on display, from certified drinks and frozen foods to meat alternatives and plant-based snacks,” says event director Carol Dunning.
Vegan World (ExCeL London, 3-4 April 2022) will see over 300 exhibitors, including Kinnerton Confectionery, Follow Your Heart UK, Ghee Easy B.V, Miller Treats/Caroboo, Miyoko’s Creamery, Unrefined Bakery, Tiba Tempeh, Bake City, Superfood World, Brand Hatchers, Bucha Brew, Grounded, Katie’s Food Co, Foods for Tomorrow/Heura, Kanematsu Gmbh, Mediterranean Bio, Budha Brew, B Ahlers & Sohn, The Nutty Group, Bravura, Untouched Foods, Better Nature, One Planet Pizza, Fortissimo Chocolates, The Vurger company, The Nutty Group and Sauceman.
Alara Full Catalogue
Last year Alara decided to become a vegan brand and since then all their muesli and granola recipes are suitable for a plant-based diet. None of their recipes contain any animal-derived ingredients like honey or milk powder which are present in many products in the market. Alara wanted everyone to enjoy a nutritious bowl of cereals regardless their diet and by turning into a vegan-friendly brand they made sure everybody could benefit from their organic range of cereals. Offering organic and sustainable healthy cereals suitable for all has always been our main goal.
New Award-Winning Truffles
Double Winners at the Natural & Organic Awards Europe 2021, the new chocolate truffle range from Booja-Booja looks set to be as popular as the company’s much-loved bestsellers. The Signature Collection, winner of Best New Vegan Product, is a stylish selection box containing all four new flavours including Chocolate Salted Caramel, winner of Best New Organic Food Product. Complementing the company’s existing Eight Truffle Packs the new range features single flavour boxes of Chocolate Salted Caramel, Chocolate Orange, Deeply Chocolate and Honeycomb Caramel (£4.99 RRP) with The Signature Collection (£9.99 RRP) echoing the format of the popular Booja-Booja Award-Winning Selection.
Cheesy Pasta Pot
This totally vegan pasta dish is an indulgent twist on mac n cheese. Made with coconut for a creamy flavour and packed with sweet red peppers, crunchy green beans and potato to create the perfect hearty dish. A meat free meal that’s ready in a moment. It’s just one of Suma’s Vegan Convenience range. Why not also try our Vegan Meatballs, Vegan Meatball Chilli, Baked Beans and Vegan Sausages or our Baked Beans and Vegan Burgers? Suma’s Vegan Convenience range; here to make Veganuary easy and tasty for vegans and flexitarians alike.
Clearspring Organic Japanese Chickpea Miso
Clearspring has added an innovative new product, with a unique twist, to its authentic Japanese miso range: Organic Unpasteurised Japanese Chickpea Miso. It is made from whole organic chickpeas, mixed with rice and koji culture. The resultant non-soya recipe miso is truly innovative and one of the only such misos available in the UK and Europe.
The miso is 100% organic, GMO-free, live, fermented, unpasteurised, vegan-friendly and made using the same traditional Japanese methods as the brand’s flagship Organic Brown Rice Miso.
Available in a sustainable 150g glass jar, it delivers a rich flavour which perfectly balances the nutty-sweet flavour of chickpeas with the umami flavour of traditional miso.
With condiments that are 100% plant-based and organic, Hlthpunk is here for health and planet-conscious people who have their principles and eat them. Created at the kitchen table, these are condiments to bring deliciousness to the simplest of dishes; from ste*ks to sandwiches, fries to falafels. Hlthpunk punks your plate with a serious dollop of flavour. For our Mother earth we support regenerative farming and give back 2% to Biodynamic initiatives. “Not only is this the best-tasting vegan mayo I’ve ever discovered, but it also tops all other non-vegan mayos on my taste scale” Source: The Kitchn (2021)
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Free From Fellows Mallows
Free From Fellows™ have extended their line up of the nation’s favourite sweets by adding three super fluffy vegan marshmallow lines. They are available in Strawberry, Vanilla and Mini Pink & White Vanilla Mallows. Free From Fellows™ Mallows have a free from list which is endless and are suitable for everyone including vegans and vegetarians. Our delicious Strawberry and Vanilla Mallows are perfect for BBQing with friends and family while our Mini Pink & White Vanilla Mallows are ideal for adding to home bakes and hot chocolates. They don’t contain any nasties and have also been approved by the Vegan and Vegetarian Societies.
Vitamin D3 and K2 Spray™
Good Health Naturally’s sublingual Vitamin D3 and K2 Spray™ delivers fast absorption of these essential nutrients. Together, they play a crucial role in the uptake and reabsorption of calcium and phosphorous into the bones and teeth. D3 and K2 also work together to protect the blood vessels from calcification. Plus, a daily dose of D3 is essential for supporting our normal immune response. Delivers 200iu D3 per spray (approx. 220 sprays per bottle), allowing flexible dosing and a convenient and practical solution for the whole family’s daily intake. Spray directly under the tongue or onto food. Suitable for vegans.
Vitaina: much more than a healthy snack!
Finally, a healthy snack is also tasty! Vitaina’s dehydrated yellow kiwi (like all of our dehydrated products) has the shortest ingredient list: only fresh fruits and vegetables from organic farming; no additives, no preservatives!
We select and process by hand, and thanks to our patented Soft-DRY® method, we are able to remove water below 40 °C, maintaining unaltered all the organoleptic and nutritional properties of our fresh fruits and vegetables.
Finally, our single-portion compostable packs offer you a convenient snack to take with you and taste at any time of the day.
Vegan Essentials from Tree of Life
Offering great taste and value, Tree of Life products are plant-based with many specially developed for a vegan diet. Our Oat Drinks are smooth, creamy and packed with the goodness of wholegrain oats providing a tasty alternative to dairy milk. Our Organic Coconut Syrup is ideal to add a little natural sweetness in place of honey, whilst our Organic Coconut Oil is a healthier, plant-based alternative to butter. And not forgetting our Nutritional Yeast Flakes which provide a rich source of vitamin B12, essential for a vegan diet, and are a great choice sprinkled on soups, casseroles, sauces or salads.
Bonsan Organic Breakfast Scramble
A versatile vegan egg alternative, Bonsan Breakfast Scramble addresses one of the fastest growing occasions in the plant-based category: breakfast. Made from organic tofu and a flavoursome blend of spices, this versatile egg replacement is naturally high in protein, making it the perfect start to the day for vegans and non-vegans alike. Simply heat and serve for a delicious and sustainable morning meal.