In 2019 Veganuary chronicled a record-breaking 250,310 participants, Waterstones stocked 3,545 book titles with the word vegan in them as of October 2019 (compared with 944 in August 2018) and for the first time, health became the primary driver for people considering veganism; the long and the short of all of this is, the word trend seems defunct in relation to plant-based foods, this is a complete shift in how consumers think, feel and buy.
We’ve mentioned before our passion and (award-winning) experience with foodie brands and retailers, so this is all very interesting to us. We’ve trawled through all the information about the hottest plant-based stuff for 2020 and how your brand can participate - whether you’re a food brand or not. Even if you’re not dishing out foodie products, you’ll be a consumer of them and there are takeaways here about the importance of tuning into the consumer consciousness, paying attention and giving the people what they want!
This is something we can all get behind, irrespective of what wares we are peddling. There’s a thread to health in almost everything we do - too much of something, too little of something, self-care and protecting our mental health and an increasing shared consciousness about the need to look after ourselves better. As we mentioned above, 2019’s Veganuary participants were, for the first time ever, more focused on the health benefits than other drivers such as animal welfare and the environment (46 per cent cited health as their reason for signing up).
63% of participants reported an improvement to their overall health.
Plant-based diets, or some element thereof, are becoming the welcome stepping stone to the kinds of lifestyle changes lots of people want to make, but might avoid fully committing to for fear of judgement if they fancy a little of something or seek a little more flexibility (ask those consumers who say the biggest reason they can’t commit to veganism is cheese or chocolate withdrawal). There’s an element of guilt or pressure associated with one label or another but most consumers want to feel the health benefits of some changes. Plant-based has a gentler, more flexible vibe than full out veganism (while it can often mean exactly the same thing) and brands are echoing this with greater choice of healthier meals that meet this interest. It is easy to become a ‘junk-food’ vegan and eat the (very-tasty) chicken nugget alternatives, epic vegan doner kebabs, or a super tasty burger, but demand is high for the great taste without the cr*p. Think fast, convenient food such as rainbow salads, wraps, soups and more - plant-based fans are not being left behind in the healthy- food to-go markets. This is where the focus will continue to be in 2020 - consumers want to see that ‘grab and go’ aisle perfectly balanced with classics and their healthy, plant-based friends.
If you’ve embarked on a vegan/plant-based or flexitarian lifestyle, it probably won’t have escaped your attention that pricing is a bone of contention. Is it expensive to eat a plant-based diet? In reality, no! Beans, pulses, fruit and vegetables can be very cost-effective, but consumers lacking culinary courage (or time) may wish to take advantage of meat replacement products rather than make their own beet burgers for example - that’s where the cost comes in. Suppliers and manufacturers rightly want a share in this market and as such are creating all manner of tasty alternatives, but as with a lot of food designed with convenience in mind, there can be a premium. Consumers are seeking quick and cheap offerings that help them balance health and their finances and it’s the challenge facing brands and manufacturers to meet this while still turning a profit. Though with the new decade seeing a mass adoption of vegan/vegetarian/flexitarian diets, larger retailers like Asda and Aldi are now offering more affordable products, connecting customers on all budgets to vegan ranges. As demand for plant-based foods continues to grow, and investment in product development delivers new vegan-friendly options, we will see even more purse-friendly products on the shelves.
This is a biggie. We know, we know, we led with health as a major driver for plant-based buying in 2020, but there’s a lot of plant-based fans out there who want to do their bit for their health and the planet, but still want a bloody good snack or treat from time to time. Our team attended Bread and Jam Fest this year and plant-based snacking was high up on the agenda. Snacks, healthy or otherwise are a huge business, but there’s a lot of milk and eggs hidden away in run of the mill choices, so the challenge is, can the market deliver some really great plant-based alternatives? Popcorn is still huge right now , earlier this year, The Telegraph reported the popcorn market was worth £102.2m.
What else are consumers really clamouring after? Well, the quest is one for the best dairy alternatives,milk being a huge player at the moment, with almost 25 percent of us choosing plant-based milk - but chocolate is something that seems to feel like a right these days, not a treat! With Mars hopping into the mainstream with a range of flavoured, vegan Galaxy bars, it’s likely that the ‘grail’ of a vegan Dairy Milk may not be too distant a dream.
We all want pudding, it seems and so desserts and cookies are also must-haves.
Paul Downing, sales director at vegan pudding brand Freaks of Nature said: “Vegans, or anyone else following a niche diet, don’t want to miss out on the good stuff.” (source: The Grocer)
This might be the most interesting of all the up and comers in the plant-based/flexitarian family - blended foods, meaning meat products but with less meat and more plant/veggie elements. We know, it’s a funny one and certainly not for those seeking a complete change to plant-based, but it opens up the conversation about how we can all play our part in reducing meat intake and fits nicely with the flexible approach we’ve been talking about. It’s ideal for those seeking to reduce meat consumption for health reasons, increase vegetable intake and works well, we suppose, for those seeking to sneak veggies into kids’ diets (much less fighting if the veg is hidden in a chicken burger to begin with)!! There are lots of carnivores seeking to take some baby steps into getting more veggies and these new, fandangled products are offering a gentle introduction. This is a great ‘in’ for other brands whose products may have a lot of meat or dairy ingredients - reductions here can be an opportunity to join the conversation and get involved.
It’s pretty obvious at this point, that this is not a trend, it’s something we’re all going to have to consider as marketeers, manufacturers and consumers. For foodie brands, there are some pretty clear messages here: innovate, think about snacks, consider how we keep it healthy and fun and don’t turn a blind eye to the importance of treats - if you can manage all that while giving consumers a sense of value too, then you’re on to a winner! If that sounds tough and you need some help with your big idea, then you can always speak to us about that!