Vegetables: a flash in the pan or here to stay? by Sam Orbaum

Food and Drink
lucre on January 30, 2018

That’s a wrap. The first of February is within touching distance; so close you can hear the sizzle of bacon coming in over the horizon. Toast some bread, slop on the Heinz, take a bite and, just like that, Veganuary is done and dusted for another year. Only, it’s not so simple.

Sure, the new year cleanse is coming to an official end, but the clamour for a meat-free-month is suggestive of the direction in which our longer-term eating habits are travelling. Perhaps, a vegan diet is for life, not just post-Christmas.

Whatever the reasons for getting involved in veganism (ethical, health, Instagram…), and whether it’s dabbling or dedication, there’s no doubting that people are giving it a go. And not just in January. Statistics published by the Vegan Society show that the number of vegans in Britain ballooned by more than 360% between 2006 and 2016, making it the country’s fastest growing lifestyle movement. Add in a hoard of part-timers and a popular hashtag – #Veganuary2018 has been used 21,359 and counting on Instagram – and it’s no wonder that brands are taking notice, and action.

From major restaurant chains adding to their vegan options to innovative product development, the last few months have seen numerous initiatives aimed at the growing vegan audience. Pizza Express, Zizzi and Carluccio’s are among the biggest restaurant groups to have substantially expanded their vegan offerings and it would appear that supermarkets are following suit, with the likes of Tesco and Asda announcing new vegan ranges. Where once there was KFC riding the wave of a mock clean eating burger, there are now brands furiously developing meat and dairy free alternatives. Ben & Jerry’s are among the most recognisable names leading the NPD charge, although perhaps the biggest headline grabber will be the vegan ‘bleeding’ burger, which has been announced by Moving Mountains.

With an estimated 52,000 participants this year, initiatives such as Veganuary offer impactful short-term publicity for veganism but the aforementioned developments hint at a longer-term commitment from influential companies too. The tightrope currently being walked is that between a trend and a fad.

We all witnessed the mess made by the Clean Eating brigade, where pseudo-science and marketing fuelled opportunism was exposed and dismantled. There have been missteps here, too, such as the short-lived Marks and Spencer’s cauliflower steaks, but, assuming that brands find the balance between relevance and exploitation, there’s little question that there’s a lucrative market here and that veganism will live long beyond Veganuary.