The vegan revolution – who’s keeping up?

At least 600,000 people in the UK are now vegan. This is a whopping increase from 10 years ago when the estimated number was 150,000, making veganism one of Britain’s fastest growing lifestyle movements. With the demand for animal-free alternatives increasing by 987% in 2017, it has never been more important for brands to keep up with this fast-moving change in appetite.

The fashion and beauty industries are taking massive leaps to keep up with this engaged audience. With companies both high-end to high-street catching on, veganism is fast becoming on vogue. Surprisingly, however, the FMCG industry, food brands in particular, is struggling to keep up.

Stella McCartney

British Fashion icon Stella McCartney now uses vegan products including faux-fur and vegetarian leather. Their marketing style is influenced by youth-culture and has a focus on being unashamedly cruelty-free

Vans

Iconic shoe brand Vans are now making their recognisable slip-on shoe in a canvas vegan alternative. The most recent release within this range is the Vans x Bowie collection – influenced by British Rockstar David Bowie. The whole campaign has a rebellious feel, which fits in well with the modern vegan attitude.

Urban Decay

Urban Decay have released a new range of vegan and animal-testing-free products, engaging their audience with an edgy, anti-animal cruelty message. With vivid colours and adorable furry creatures, their campaign hits the heart of what the modern vegan movement is all about.

If it is so fashionable to be vegan, what is food brands so far behind the curve?

Though more vegan options are now available, brands are failing to really understand this consumer and how to appeal to them. Gone are the days of dull salad and chewy tofu in plain simple packaging. Consumers are seeking loud-and-proud engaging products that they feel truly connect with their ethos.

Now considered the ‘home of the vegan sausage roll’, Greggs has seen a huge surge in sales since its new meat-free option was released in January. Realising that vegan alternatives are becoming big business; Subway has tried to follow suit. However, with their new options being a salad and vegetable patty, they aren’t exactly breaking boundaries. Their design campaign lacks visual appeal and does little to promote the product as anything new or exciting. They seem to be forgetting that the vegan community is made up of edgy, conscious and very active consumers. As options for them grow, lazy or unimaginative marketing campaigns will simply not be enough to grab their attention.

Waitrose has released its own range of vegan and vegetarian food, however, their subtle packaging lacks eye-catching appeal and the bravado of other branded plant-based options such as Quorn or Linda McCartney. It’s almost as if Waitrose aren’t aware that vegan options no longer appeal to a small minority. The ‘flexitarian’ diet isn’t just for yoga-hitting millennials anymore, but for people from all walks of life seeking healthier choices. Instead of highlighting these new options, they seem to be shying away, as though trying not to deter the less conscious consumer.

As our culture and awareness around animal-agriculture and sustainability changes, so will consumer attitudes. It is vital for brands to keep up with these shifts if they wish to maintain their relevance with the modern consumer. Last year, the UK launched more vegan products than anywhere else in the world – which shows that the supply is there to meet the demand. But the race is on to see which brands will captivate the attention of this highly engaged and active consumer.

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