With growing interest in veganism and record numbers of consumers signing up to plant-based diets in January, Veganuary is becoming an opportunity for grocers to launch or extend their meat-free and dairy-free offerings.
More widely, the trend signals a longer-term dietary change in eating habits and consumer demand.
As more people recognise the positive impacts on animal welfare, the environment or personal health, vegan options are becoming increasingly available in mainstream shops and food service providers and have become an important way for grocers to differentiate their products.
M&S: Plant Kitchen
At the start of January, Marks & Spencer launched Plant Kitchen, its first-ever Vegan range, with over 50 items, including ready meals, food on the go and meat alternatives, the selection earned the high street chain high praise in some quarters of the food industry. However, as a retailer known for its food innovation, that M&S should launch its vegan range long after other grocers have already done so, is disappointing.
Premium competitor Waitrose was quick off the mark, seizing the opportunity to cater for a growing demand for plant-based products, selling an impressive range of branded and own label products, which it expanded in October 2018, becoming the first major supermarket to offer a dedicated vegan section in its stores.
Sainsbury’s has fairly well-established ‘free-from’ aisles in its major stores and sought to expand its existing vegan range in late December 2018, including a number of innovative products such as vegan smoked salmon and chorizo-style hot dogs.
Tesco: Wicked Kitchen
Tesco launched its own vegan range, Wicked Kitchen, in 2018, but the high price (with ready meals costing £3.50 to £4) may alienate some consumers.
Aldi: Charity partnership
As a discounter, it is perhaps surprising that Aldi has embraced the vegan trend, but if the retailer is to attract AB customers then it is important that it keep up with product innovation and consumer trends. To this end, Aldi has collaborated with the Veganuary charity to promote the expansion of its range and launched an advertising campaign aimed at informing families about the benefits of eating a vegan diet for a month.
There are significant opportunities for discounters given the high price points of many of the grocers’ vegan ranges that would make a plant-based diet more accessible to the wider UK population.
Greggs: Vegan ‘sausage’ roll
Despite vegan offerings being overlooked in the past, options are becoming more widespread thanks to increased demand. The Greggs vegan ‘sausage’ roll illustrates this well – a chain that would have otherwise not been considered to be particularly vegan-friendly recognised a market opportunity and so captured headlines across the UK with an innovative product. Despite being ridiculed by some, the popularity of the roll has proved otherwise.
Veganuary and beyond
Interest in vegan products in January is boosted by the hype around Veganuary, but savvy retailers and food service providers can be expected to continue to expand and improve their ranges further as the demand for plant-based foods grows, whether by full-time vegans or part-time vegans.
Convenience stores may offer a further opportunity for grocers to expand their vegan range with suitable offering to tempt young, busy, vegan-friendly consumers.