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Veganuary has become a fixture in the food industry calendar, with more than half a million people registering for the 2021 campaign. Organisers expect the month-long vegan challenge to garner even more support in 2022 as plant-based eating gains more and more devoted followers.
Toni Vernelli, Veganuary’s international head of communications and marketing told Speciality Food that in the new year, Veganuary is setting its sights on international expansion, with India joining the UK, US, Germany, Chile, Brazil and Argentina as campaign hubs.
“International backers of Veganuary continue to grow, with Joanna Lumley, Benjamin Zephaniah, New York mayor Eric Adams, world-renowned chef Matthew Kenney who recently opened Adesse in Selfridges and Dragon Den’s Deborah Meaden among those supporting the campaign this year; while Venus Williams, Jane Goodall, Sadie Frost, Bella Ramsey and Bryan Adams have donated their favourite vegan recipes to Veganuary’s 2022 cookbook, which all participants receive.
“More than 582,000 people from 209 countries and territories officially took part in Veganuary last year, and we expect this year to be even bigger as climate change is at the forefront of everyone’s mind,” Toni continued.
With this in mind, what can fine food retailers expect from Veganuary 2022?
“Consumers of all ages are becoming increasingly experimental with their food choices, with a surge in those following a plant-based, meat-free, vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diet, and those cutting out animal products from their diets for health, lifestyle and environmental reasons,” said Tasneem Alonzo, joint managing director, of the Lähde brand by EHL Ingredients. “Meat-free and plant-based foods are set to continue their popularity during 2022 and beyond.”
Those who enjoy meat but who have decided to eat less of it for environmental or welfare reasons will likely be drawn to plant-based protein. Vegan meat maker THIS’s co-founder Andy Shovel recently told Speciality Food that the business had seen year-on-year growth of 200%, more than six times the overall retail category growth rate. “We’ve seen retailers, brands and foodservice outlets launch vegan versions of existing products, from sausage rolls, pasties and pies, croissants, and pains au chocolat, with speciality food stores and delis launching their own versions of vegan sweet and savoury baked goods,” Tasneem said.
“Vegan junk food in particular, such as pizzas, burgers, kebabs, grilled and fried foods, is becoming increasingly mainstream and widely available in meat-free formats,” she added.
If your customers are new to a vegan diet, they may be comforted by familiar favourites that have a vegan twist. Try stocking vegan meat alternative brands that focus on imitating the flavours and textures of animal-based meat, easy grab-and-go options and vegan milks that offer a simple swap for the flexitarian.
While the taste for – and availability of – vegan junk food has grown, many customers will be searching for vegan food in the new year due to health reasons, so it’s important not to put all of your eggs in the vegan meat alternative basket. Instead, stock plant-based products which are ideal for use in scratch cooking. “Roasted cauliflower is currently one of the hero meat-free dishes,” Tasneem said, “but we’re expecting ingredients like jackfruit, tempeh, seitan, and plant-based meat replacements to appear much more frequently on shelf.”
Indeed, RH Amar has seen a stark rise in demand for its Cooks&Co jackfruit and lotus root products. “Consumers are also looking for product versatility and use across different meal occasions. Plant-based products have the versatility to be the star attraction on a meat-free Monday and equally play a supporting role as a meat accompaniment later in the week,” said Anne-Marie Cannon, senior brand manager for Cooks&Co at RH Amar.
Finding natural replacements for animal-derived products is sure to please this subset of customers. For example, Pure Maple is promoting its Vegan Pure Maple Butter Spread as a vegan and 100% natural alternative to honey. “With the increasing number of vegans, maple syrup provides an ideal sweet natural supplement in the vegan diet,” its founders said.
With the global food market already in high demand, it’s no surprise that vegan and flexitarian customers are looking to broaden their horizons too. “World food fans are looking for international meat-free foods from specific regions now, not just countries,” Tasneem said. “Where once cuisines might have been grouped as more general Middle Eastern, Caribbean, and Indian or Asian, consumers are now open to more distinct, unusual flavours with exotic sounding names.”
For example, Tasneem said, ras el hanout and harissa are spice blends that have gone from relatively unknown in the UK to spice cupboard staples. Za’atar, Korean BBQ and Ethiopian seasonings are swiftly following in their tracks.
Elsewhere, the taste for cuisines from Central and South America – like Mexican, Peruvian and Brazilian – are growing. Mexican has been hailed as a plant-based favourite in recent years. It was named as Veganuary’s most popular cuisine for 2021 and 2020, according to social media insight from spice specialist Santa Maria.
Far from being a short-lived blip in the retail calendar, vegan food is becoming more and more popular throughout the year.
“Campaigns such as Veganuary, as well as TV programmes and documentaries, certainly help increase awareness and interest in the benefits of a plant-based or meat-free diet, but year-round there are consumers who follow a flexitarian diet and often choose to eat meat-free for personal health and environmental reasons,” Tasneem said.
The sales opportunity in January is significant, but adapting your vegan product strategy throughout the year will be the real key to capitalising on this trend in the long term.