Expert live panel: Future vegan product trends

We all know that the vegan sector has exploded, but what’s going to be the next big trend?

In this video recorded live at VegfestUK’s Summerfest Online, David hosts an expert panel including Louisianna Waring, Insight & Commercial Policy Officer, The Vegan Society and Dan Strettle, Owner, Alternative Stores and vegan himself for over 5 decades.  VegfestUK’s Tim Barford also joins us for some unique insight at the end of the session from his years of running the largest vegan consumer and trade shows in the UK.

This is a far-reaching discussion between recognised experts in the vegan marketplace about what’s hot right now, how the Coronavirus epidemic changed consumer’s buying behaviour and what’s going to be the next big growth area in ‘vegan’.

Key learnings from the session:

The vegan plant-based market and rise of vegan consumers:

The number of vegans in great Britain quadrupled 2014 – 2019 with estimates that 600k people in the UK now identify as vegan.

Studies have shown that research into the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, combined with documentaries like Cowspiracy, contributed to the rise in new plant-based consumers.

We’re still only at the start of the plant-based boom, and we’re now seeing veganism in places like it wasn’t before – such as investment.

Other signs of the growth in veganism is that Veganuary in 2020 had 400,000 people sign ups and 10% of children are being raised meat-free.

The vegan scene is now unrecognisable compared to decades ago where if you went out for a vegan meal you would end up with rice and a couple of vegetables.

Vegan celebrities have used their huge platforms to make the vegan message mainstream.

The customer for vegan products

There is no longer a typical vegan consumer and most people can now name a vegan friend or family member.

The end customer for vegan products is often not vegan or even vegetarian.

Companies need to understand that many customers for plant-based products are from mixed households and are looking for single products they will all consume.

There are many different entry points into veganism with older generations following the younger generations in their family.

What’s hot at the moment in vegan, cruelty-free and plant-based?

Cosmetics is seeing the biggest increase in products converting to vegan, along with ‘celebration’ bakery products, such as birthday cakes.

Decades-old products such as Sosmix are being rediscovered by consumers as they experiment with plant-based home-cooking.

Vegan cheeses are finally coming of age and demand for the well-known brands often outstrips supply.

‘Like-for-like’ products aimed at early vegan converts are proving hugely popular, and many brands are now veganising their products because consumers want brands to to transition with them.

We’re seeing a shift away from soya protein into ingredients with shorter supply chains such as oat, hemp and pea which can all be grown locally.

Companies can still go much further in categories that people might think are already be oversubscribed, and smaller companies can build a good niche following.

Some vegan services such as dating apps might not have a big enough audience to support a lot of competition.

What’s needed now?

Making vegan products accessible is key and products need to fit with where people are on their plant-based journey.

More investment and support is needed to scale up vegan companies so they can challenge and replace animal-based products.

Companies need to help their customers along the vegan journey, and how smaller vegan companies are using their ethics to draw customers away from big brands.

What trends are we going to see next?

We are seeing a growing trend towards sustainable sources for ingredients and shortening supply chains.

Demand for vegan pet food is growing, with lab-grown meat (which may be initially unpalatable to consumers) possibly becoming an answer in this area.

An undeveloped market sector is vegan products designed with specific health benefits, such as cholesterol reduction or heart benefits.

The demand for vegan ready meals and vegan pizzas is really growing, with these pre-created meals also activating as an alternative to a take-away or going out to eat during the pandemic.

We are seeing a move towards better nutrition in vegan replacements, whereas before much vegan convenience or ‘junk’ food was as poor nutritionally as it’s non-vegan counterpart.

Vegan child and baby is a new growth area, but more education is needed before it can become mainstream.

There is a trend towards cross-over products that everyone can have, not just the vegans in the family.

Packaging is playing a huge part in developing vegan products, but trade-offs need to be made when moving away from well-established plastics-based packaging (for example the transportation costs of products in glass bottles compared to plastic ones). Companies also need to work to bring these more sustainable packaging innovations to their whole line, not just the vegan products.

There has been a significant rise in vegan entertainment and ‘infotainment’, not just in big documentaries like The Game Changers, but ventures such as comics and graphic novels with vegan characters or messages.

The future of vegan products and services

We’re now seeing everything from vegan electricians to vegan taxi companies – but the key is they are not just serving vegans, they are serving the wider market but normalising the vegan message.

Positive vegan references are now commonplace in mainstream media and entertainment.

Research has shown that moving a meat-replacement product into the meat aisle results in sales going up by 20-30%.

Retailers are still favouring one industry over another, but this is changing and products need to win more predominant product placement.

The Vegan Society can work with retailers to conduct research on their specific customers and product location to increase sales.

Collaboration between vegan businesses, such as Meatless Farm partnering with One Planet Pizza and Applewood Vegan Cheese, are leading to staggering results and we need to see more.

Where to start? Book an executive chat session.

Does your team need to understand the new vegan marketplace and the complex motivations behind this new consumer’s buying choices?

Our introductory vegan ‘executive chat’ session is a one to two hour discussion with your senior executive team where we will educate you on this radically different new consumer sector.  The session will also facilitate discussion between your team about the opportunities for your brand within the plant-based and vegan market.

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