Roast dinners might be heading towards extinction, as more and more UK consumers are opting for tofu, nut roasts and falafel at meal times instead.
The reason? Veganism.
Veganism in the UK has increased by 350% in the past decade, with 3.5 million Brits now identifying as vegan (roughly 5% of the population). UK consumers are increasingly captivated by the plight of animals in the meat and dairy industries, encouraged and enlightened by documentaries such as Cowspiracy, What the Health and Earthlings, that expose the unethical underbelly of these industries.
Further compounded by the news that cutting meat out of your diet will reduce your personal carbon footprint more than if you stopped using your car. The multiple arguments for a vegan lifestyle are being found compelling by more and more people.
Both in response to, and fuelling the trend for plant-based living, existing and emerging food manufacturers are providing for this growing audience.
We surveyed 250 UK consumers to discover current attitudes towards this ethical positioning of brands and the perception of veganism as a lifestyle.
To beef or not to beef?
Veganism is undeniably on the rise, with little to no sign that it’ll be slowing any time soon. It has been propelled from the choice of a chosen few to a significant mainstream attitude towards diet, thanks to arguments based on animal ethics, environmental impact, health benefits and popular desires to be involved in a new movement.
It’s also easier than even to be vegan, which is in turn contributing to awareness and adoption, with both dedicated and mass-market brands focussed on developing better tasting, healthier vegan food.
90% of the consumers surveyed have noticed the rising meat-free mentality, leaving just 10% of consumers unaware that more and more brands and restaurants will be swapping their steaks for soya.
Not only is awareness up, but the arguments are translating, with 65% of consumers either happily replacing some meals with vegan food or actively practicing a fully vegan lifestyle.
Only 12% of respondents answered that they wouldn’t give up their daily doses of meat and animal by-products.
There’s some variation in the way men and women approach the topic; 65% of the respondents identifying as completely vegan were male, however 55% of those happy to eat vegan meals some of the time were female.
Interesting, there’s almost no variance in generations, so while Millennials may think they’ve pioneered the trend, it seems to be coincidental that they’ve grown up with a changing attitude that might have been just as successful in any period.
Capitalising on the converts
It’s unclear whether the rise of vegan food manufacturers, and vegan lines for existing food producers, have blossomed in response to changing consumer attitudes, or have fuelled the mainstream adoption of veganism.
The rise in awareness around ethical issues thanks to journalists reporting on exploitative manufacturing processes and environmental concerns may have fuelled the trend; or perhaps it was companies noticing a niche and identifying the opportunity to innovate in a new market, thereby providing an easier way for consumers to access vegan foods.
Whether driving the change or responding to it, the vegan market is new, exciting and full of potential for food brands.
When asked to name a food brand producing vegan food, the results were heavily weighted towards existing vegetarian and mass-market food producers with specific vegan lines, indicating that vegan-only brands are currently struggling to take share of mind away from older, more widely-familiar brands.
The runaway winner, Quorn—with 24% of Unprompted Brand Recall—only offers one line of vegan-friendly products, being much better known as catering for vegetarians.
Similarly, Linda McCartney ranked in second place with 4% of recall as a vegetarian brand with a line of vegan foods.
Supermarket chains Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s all ranked within the top 10 brands offering vegan produce, contributing to mainstream movement and availability of vegan produce.
The highest-scoring dedicated vegan brands are Wicked Kitchen and Nakd who both score a relatively low 1.2% of the recall.
|Ben & Jerry’s||1.60%|
It seems, then, that vegan food producers have quite a way to go to compete effectively with the mass-market manufacturers who have also expanded into this market. Existing infrastructure, size and familiarity will all stack in favour of existing companies dominating the vegan market, so vegan-only companies should perhaps look to innovation as their defining feature to enable them to compete, something larger companies are more likely to struggle with.
Eating outside the box
A different picture is painted when we look at the vegan restaurant market; the top two spots are held by Mildreds and Ethos, with 4% and 3% of unprompted brand recall each. Both are dedicated vegan and vegetarian restaurants.
The rest of the top 10 restaurants where consumers feel they could eat well as vegan was entirely populated by chain restaurants, including Wagamama, Las Iguanas and, controversially, Nando’s. Despite being widely regarded as a haven for chicken-lovers, Nando’s does actually offer a rapidly expanding vegan menu.
Once again, restaurants providing for the niche market are, on the whole, less memorable than chain restaurants, with the sole exception of two London-based vegetarian and vegan restaurants.
Although this certainly spells a positive opportunity for chain brands looking to diversify and win market share in a growing community.
Conclusion: Plenty of room for growth
Only 48% of respondents were able to name a restaurant where a vegan would be well catered for. Similarly 64% of consumers named a food brand providing for vegan home-cooking. This is despite 90% of consumers recognising a shift towards more vegan lifestyles and 65% being happy to eat or actively seeking vegan meals.
Subsequently, there’s lots of attention – and business – ripe for the winning. Consumers are widely open to this new diet, with a significant minority already converted due to ethical concerns.
For well-established brands, the process of winning attention from this community is possibly easier, given existing familiarity of their brand. Hence the developing of vegan offerings by many High Street retailers and restaurants.
For smaller, vegan-only producers, the journey is more uphill, having to compete against big names with the marketing and NPD budgets to put products to market quickly and effectively. However there’s certainly a market for these brands, with two vegan-friendly restaurants winning the greatest share of mind amongst consumers.
It seems that brands of all denominations have the potential to win big by targeting the ethically minded, and do the planet and its inhabitants some good in the process. It’s a win-win for everyone.