Tesco reported record UK Christmas sales on 14 January, with like-for-like sales up 8.1% in the six weeks to 9 January. The retail giant reported a surge in online grocery demand, including a large bump in demand for plant-based and vegan groceries, with its Plant Chef range rising by more than 90%.

So what is going on?

Covid-19 has significantly reshaped consumer behavior. The retailer reported that online sales had increased by more than 80% over the previous 19 weeks, equating to nearly £1bn in extra sales. While the threat of Covid-19 kept consumers at home and ordering online, ethical and environmental concerns have not taken a back seat. According to GlobalData, significant numbers of UK consumers reported caring more about these issues than before the pandemic, and this phenomenon translated into increased sales of products that aligned with these values, such as plant-based foods.

The Christmas period is traditionally the time for consumers to treat themselves and each other, and this year was no different in that respect; sales of the retailer’s Finest range were up 14%. What is different is the take-up in plant-based and vegan products that enabled people to treat themselves in a more ethics-focused way.

This development is in line with GlobalData’s most recent survey, which shows that 22% of consumers are eating less meat, while we saw significant increases in ethical and environmental concerns regardless of diet. These trends existed prior to the pandemic, but Covid-19 seems to have prioritised these issues in consumers’ minds; as people are forced to stay put, they are forced to think more about where they live and the future they want to see. This has translated to growth in more ethical product sales, especially during the Christmas period when demand for indulgence and ethics spikes in tandem.