How can retailers capitalise on the growing vegan trend?

17 November 2017 (Last Updated November 17th, 2017 16:56)

November is vegan month in the UK and with more shoppers turning to veganism as consumers show a greater concern for the environment and the welfare of animals, this is placing greater demand on retailers to sell more products that conform to a vegan lifestyle.

How can retailers capitalise on the growing vegan trend?

November is vegan month in the UK and with more shoppers turning to veganism as consumers show a greater concern for the environment and the welfare of animals, this is placing greater demand on retailers to sell more products that conform to a vegan lifestyle.

Veganism is a form of vegetarianism that boycotts the use of all animal products. The UK is among the top-growing countries for veganism. In 2014, only 1% of the population classified themselves as vegan, rising to 3% in 2017, according to a report by GlobalData. With over one million more consumers demanding vegan products, this offers retailers a prime opportunity to capitalise on a trend that continues to gain popularity. However, while there is an established market for vegan products in food, there is also a growing opportunity in categories such as clothing and beauty.

Appeal to consumers with a curated vegan food offer

The most recognised market for vegan consumers is food & grocery and over the past five years, the grocers have been capitalising on the vegan trend to differing levels of success. Morrisons has most recently become best-in-class for store formats that appeal to vegan shoppers. In its new format stores, it has introduced a ‘free from’ aisle, displaying plant-based dairy alternatives, alongside meat substitutes such as Quorn. It is the only grocer that enables consumers to shop for all these items in one place and highlights the growing importance of ensuring vegan consumers can shop for produce just as easily as non-vegans.

While its shopper journey is not as seamless as Morrisons, Tesco also merchandises plant-based dairy products together and Sainsbury’s and Asda both offer a comprehensive range, albeit in a more difficult-to-shop format. With the growing popularity of veganism, store layout is an area that the grocers must continue to develop.

The free-from ranges are dominated by brands such as Arla, Alpro and Quorn, all of which have price points above their non-vegan counterparts. For example in Tesco, Alpro Soya milk costs £1.40 a litre compared to just £0.44 per litre for cow’s milk. Grocers should invest and expand their own-brand ranges to appeal to vegan shoppers on a budget. Lower prices would also appeal to those less strict vegans, i.e. flexitarians, who are less willing to invest in this lifestyle full-time, or those looking to consume less diary to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Extend reach with vegan clothing

Globally, veganism is most prominent among younger consumers, particularly those aged between 16 – 34 years old, according to research by GlobalData. As a result, in most recent years there has been a rise in demand for trend-led vegan clothing, as many items seemingly animal-product free contain small parts of animals such as leather labels, for example on jeans, or angora wool in jumpers, rendering them undesirable to the young vegan consumer.

Furthermore, the desirability of real fur has fallen since the 1990s, with many fur retailers and fur departments in retailers like Harrods and Debenhams closing; this trend has continued into leather, with the rising popularity of pleather clothing. However, the way retailers describe these products is changing: Boohoo.com and Nasty Gal are marketing faux leather products as ‘vegan leather’, ensuring that they appeal to these consumers and removing concerns that clothing may contain small traces of animal products.

Nevertheless, the fashion industry has not been without controversy, in 2016 the BBC aired a documentary on animal products, highlighting that the cost of real fur in some cases was cheaper than the production of fake fur and as a result real fur was entering the market in the UK unlabelled or labelled incorrectly. In 2017, Missguided was found to be selling a pair of shoes with a fur pom pom, which contained real fur; however, the product was not advertised as such. While the retailer did pull this product from its site when this was discovered, it highlights the challenges that vegan consumers face when shopping for clothes. Retailers must make a concerted effort to ensure that products are labelled correctly and provide full details about what the products are made of or risk losing the trust of the growing proportion of vegan customers.

Attract new customers with cruelty-free makeup

The demand for vegan and cruelty-free make-up continues to rise and with the health & beauty market set to grow by 21.1% over the next five years, there is great potential for retailers to exploit this trend. Furthermore, many consumers demanding cruelty-free and vegan makeup may not conform to a vegan diet. Instead, negative press on animal testing has meant more shoppers are demanding these products on moral and ethical grounds.

In 2017, Superdrug launched its own-brand vegan makeup range, appealing to a core younger demographic. Its range offers an affordable solution for those against animal testing, something that more premium cruelty-free brands, such as Urban Decay and Kat Von D, cannot offer.