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In the booming world of vegan food, there is a clear and ever-rising demand for products year-round, providing an exciting opportunity for independents. Indeed, with Covid-19 driving an increased footfall through small independent stores, as well as an interest in all things plant-based, there is more reason than ever to introduce dedicated animal-free foods to your store, and to seek out and stock ‘accidentally vegan’ versions of well-loved products.
It’s now common to see dedicated vegan versions of everyday foods being bought out by international brands: vegan mayonnaise, vegan ice cream, vegan meat, you name it.
But there’s a whole world of products out there that were not created for vegans, but nonetheless are suitable for them. One of the earliest examples of this was the humble bourbon biscuit – but there are thousands of products now that fit the bill.
If you stock a product that contains a small proportion of whey or milk powder, for example, a significant number of your customers will simply put it straight back on the shelf. What a wasted opportunity! Seek out or create similar, high-quality items that don’t contain animal products and your chances of selling it will immediately increase.
There’s been a huge uptick in the number and quality of artisan vegan cheeses in recent years. Where the big brands tend to rely on soya or coconut as a base, the smaller companies are increasingly looking to cashews to create unique and exquisite flavours and textures. As a sign of how far things have come, the first fully vegan cheese shop – La Fauxmagerie – opened in London in 2019.
Of course, quality is key. ‘Local’ and ‘artisanal’ will only get you so far and stocking any vegan cheese just to tick that box is a mistake. Stock the products you love, and then recommend them to your customers.
Farm shops, health food stores, delis and their cafés should focus on giving their customers what they know and love while catering to the increased demand for plant-based food. One tip is to look at what your bestselling non-vegan products are and replicate them with vegan options.
There are lots of ways for independents to make a name for themselves in Veganuary while ensuring customers return when the month-long challenge is over. Given that 73% of Veganuary participants who stayed vegan in January go on to remain vegan all year round, there’s an incentive right there to start the year as you mean to go on. Kick 2021 off by letting the world know that you stock a range of fantastic vegan options.
A window display will stop passing traffic, while a social media campaign will bring people to your door. If you are going all-out for Veganuary, traditional local media are also likely to be interested. (In 2020, Veganuary’s UK media reach exceeded 7 billion!)
At point-of-sale, provide posters and leaflets. Create promotions and offers specifically on vegan foods, and in-store sampling can be a boon. When La Fauxmagerie opened up one cheese as a sample – a cheese that did not have the boldest of packaging – they almost immediately had to double their order. Now, isn’t that a trend you want to get on board with?