How retailers are expanding on their plant-based credentials due to the rise in veganism

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that the veganism trend is becoming highly prevalent across the globe. Growing numbers of consumers are mindfully opting to reduce their meat consumption and are turning to vegan products instead. According to forecasts by Allied Market Research, the global meat alternative market will reach a massive $5.2 billion by 2020[1] and has even been referred to as the biggest lifestyle movement of the 21st century. This trend [2] is particularly evident in Europe, which is the largest market for meat substitutes and accounts for 39% of global sales.

As the demand for vegan products shows no sign of slowing down, retailers therefore have the opportunity to capitalize on this growing trend, which is rapidly becoming mainstream.

This is a key way to remain relevant whilst appealing to a broader number of consumers.

So why has there been such a significant boom in veganism in the last couple of years?

Benefits for the planet and our health

One of the key drivers for the growth in veganism is an increasing interest in health. Due to the consumer’s aspirations for a healthier lifestyle, more and more people are turning to vegan products, that are more nutritious and that have associations with well-being . Key, renowned players in the industry have backed evidence indicating that a vegan diet can significantly boost our health. For example, ‘The China Study’ by biochemist T. Colin Campbell and Thomas Campbell, has even inspired influential figures such as Bill Clinton to go vegan.

Businesses across the globe are responding to this widespread consumer trend by exploring new ways to entice people to eat vegan food. In San Francisco, for example, a start-up called Le Cupboard has launched vegan vending machines, encouraging people to opt for nutritious vegan snacks, as opposed to the usual candy bars.

This interest has also been reported by international delivery service Just Eat, who, following a 987% increase in demand for vegetarian and vegan foods, have predicted veganism as a top consumer trend in 2018, due to people striving for ‘healthy lifestyles.’

Another key driver is the growing concern about the state of the environment. A number of reports, including a French study published in the journal of Nutrition and Environmental Sustainability, [3]highlight that a vegan diet is the kindest to the environment. Due to factors such as the costs of livestock farming, animal-based diets not only have high-energy requirements, but alsosignificantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, thus pushing people increasingly to embrace a vegan lifestyle.

Increased knowledge about the way meat is produced (following the broadcasting of footage featuring poorly treated animals), and the rise of key influencers becoming vegan (such as Ellie Goulding and Beyoncé, who recently went as far as launching a vegan food delivery service), are further contributing factors for the growth in veganism.

So how are retailers responding to this demand?

In response to the fact that shoppers are increasingly cutting down on their meat consumption, UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s have introduced a new Private Label range of plant-based protein foods. With the intention of offering an ‘innovative solution for meat-free meal times,’ the retailer has creatively experimented with ingredients such as pulled jack fruit and mushrooms to offer consumers new and exciting ways to incorporate a wide variety of vegetables and flavours into their lives. 

Last year, Switzerland’s largest wholesale and retail company Coop Cooperative, opened their first store of vegetarian and vegan supermarket chain, Karma, that offers the largest selection of vegan products in the country. Positioned in a high traffic area of Zurich, Karma sells a wide range of Private Label products. In a bid to entice people to the shop, provide a memorable experience and therefore encourage  customer loyalty, the store also features an in house café, vegan cosmetics, weekly in-store recipe demonstrations and prepared food items such as vegan hot dogs.

To conclude, the vegan market has proven to be highly lucrative, due to the aforementioned growth in healthy and ethical consumerism, and is therefore a key trend that retailers would be foolish to ignore.

With growing numbers of start-ups and entrepreneurs seizing the opportunity to create new businesses in response to this widespread consumer shift towards a more plant-based diet, it is crucial for retailers and brands alike to adhere to this ‘mega-trend.’

As the vegan market shows no signs of slowing down, it appears that providing plant-based options is vital in terms of remaining relevant in today’s retail environment.