How Brands Have Responded to the Rise of Plant-Based Lifestyles

12 Apr,2019

The V-word. There was certainly a time when it would make people shudder; claiming to be vegan was not seen as ‘the norm’. Now, however, it’s pretty mainstream. Even those who don’t associate themselves with the ‘vegan’ label are excited to try more plant-based foods, whether it’s for the sheer novelty or the undoubtable health benefits. In fact, Kantar’s research found that in 2018, a whopping 92% of plant-based meals were “eaten by non-vegans”. This clearly shows the demand for vegan products, even if only 3% of people in the UK “self-define as vegan”.

The statistics don’t lie

In today’s blog post, we’re going to take a look at how the top UK supermarkets have adapted to this rising trend, focusing on the retail brands that they stock.

It would be silly to discuss veganism in the retail industry and not mention the huge success of Greggs’ Vegan Sausage Roll – it certainly caused quite a stir. But massive PR opportunity aside, the numbers really speak for themselves. After the plant-based snack launched, Greggs reached £1 billion in sales for the first time ever. Sales don’t lie. We’re intrigued to see what other retailers have been doing to get in on the action.

appetizer bowls breakfast

Introducing plant-based brands to the mainstream

Back in 2017, Tesco recruited chef Derek Sarno as their ‘Director of Plant Based Innovation’. Sarno also co-founded Wicked Healthy – the Kitchen range sold 4 million meals at Tesco within the first 33 weeks. This was around the time when the revolution really started, so you could argue that Tesco were at the forefront of it all.

By 2018, all the major supermarkets had added sizeable vegan ranges to their stock. Sainsbury’s had Naturli and Love Your Veg!, Morrisons had V Taste and Asda had expanded their own-name ‘Vegetarian’ range with more plant-only offerings. Naturally, more vegan brands start popping up across all UK supermarkets. These include more varieties of popular plant milk Oatly along with meat imitation specialists Oumph! And Vivera. Towards the end of last year, M&S have launched their Plant Kitchen range including No Pork Sausages, classic Spag Bol and Cauliflower Popcorn.

wicked kitchen
Wicked Kitchen via Tesco

So, how have these new brands been performing? Well, according to General Manager Ishen Paran chatting to the Financial Times, Oatly’s turnover rose almost 60% in 2018. Over 1 million Vivera ‘steaks’ were sold between their launch in May and October last year. In terms of seasonal offerings, Waitrose saw a 36% increase in the sale of vegan haggis for Burns Night whilst M&S announced a sell-out of its dairy-free Chocolate & Coconut Cream drink for Christmas 2018.

These are just a handful of statistics that clearly prove that the popularity of plant-based and dairy-free options.

Established brands continue to innovate in a highly competitive marketplace

With so many new and exciting brands on offer in retail stores, the established brands have to continue to launch NPD’s in order to maintain their market leader status. Quorn and Linda McCartney were once the only two vegetarian and vegan ranges in store. Now they’re just a needle in the haystack. However, the flagship vegan brands have been releasing plenty of new products since the V revolution started. Early in 2017, Quorn launched their Fishless Fingers which have proven incredibly popular. Their latest product is the Ultimate Burger, which claims to be “unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before” – it’s also coloured with beetroot to give that realistic pink meat look.

Ultimate Burger packshot resized

The retail offering is constantly increasing

You’d think, from the brands we’ve listed here, there was more than enough plant-based ranges to keep people satisfied for now. But new products, ranges and brands are being introduced every single week in the UK!

Last month, dessert brand Gü launched a tasty new collection of vegan puddings including Strawberry & Rhubarb Cheesecakes and Chocolate & Vanilla cheesecakes. Just this week, Morrisons have introduced an exciting startup to their shelves: The Meatless Farm Co. Offering realistic, lookalike meat alternatives, we’re sure this will be yet another success amongst the vegans, health enthusiasts and downright curious eaters of the UK.

We’re excited to see more varied plant products across the retail sector that will appeal to both vegans and meat eaters. It’s undeniably a massive opportunity for brands and stores and will continue to be for the forseeable future.

If you need help pushing your plant-based product in stores or launching a new vegan retail brand, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to see how we can deliver a solution that will allow you to keep up with the competition.