In 2018 a robust survey commissioned by The Vegan Society has shown that the number of vegans in Great Britain has doubled twice in the past four years from 0.25% up to 1.16% in 2018: about 600,000 adults. That number does not include that vast amount of people that practice the lifestyle on occasion without claiming to be fully vegan (sometimes referred to as being ‘flexi-vegan’). As well as this rise in numbers, we have seen veganism enter our lives in more ways than ever before. The range of vegan produce in supermarkets is growing, plant-based menu options are in high demand and this year we even welcomed Great British Bake Off’s first vegan week. With all of this growth, I have to ask whether vegan has finally become ‘mainstream’?
In fact, only last week the UK’s largest bakery chain Greggs announced their vegan sausage roll. This launch came after over 20,000 people signed a petition created by PETA requesting one be added to their menu last year.
The product arrived just in time for Veganuary, a campaign that asks people to go vegan during January, estimated to attract 300,000 people this year. Roger Whiteside, chief executive of Greggs had this to say about the new product: “Like many food retailers we have seen increasing demand for vegetarian and vegan products. We have been trying to develop a vegan version of our famous sausage roll for some time now. It has not been easy but our taste panel customers all love this one, so we have decided to launch it as our contribution to Veganuary.”
Customers reviews are starting to roll in, one of the first from Vice who rated the new vegan sausage roll 4.5/5 compared to the original, remarking that: “no vegan today can be bothered to compromise very much on taste, and here, you don’t have to.”
The conscious consumer is one that is becoming more outspoken, as now, more than ever, customers are demanding their needs are met. As the world changes and adapts, people are asking companies to adapt with it, and the increase is vegan accessibility is a large part of this movement.
This attitude was perfectly summarised by Season O’Callaghan, blogger and author of Fat Gay Vegan: How to Eat, Drink and Live Like You Give A Sh!t, who is a loud voice in the plant-based community. “When consumers want something, that’s when businesses respond,” Shaun said referencing Zizzi’s extensive vegan menu which launched in 2017. “That was a big undertaking for a non-vegan restaurant and it’s all been driven by people saying they want it. The business-savvy follow the money, which is why the restaurant chains are investing in developing vegan offering. They know money comes in when they do.”
Zizzi was one of the first high-street chains to embrace veganism completely. An Italian restaurant with locations all around the UK, the brand was quick to realise veganism becoming more prominent and have now cemented themselves in the vegan-friendly market with the addition of a vegan menu. They have ensured the menu is not just vegan friendly, but goes above and beyond
And it’s not just in restaurants we can see vegan options rising. At the end of December, supermarket Sainsbury’s launched 25 new plant-based products in time for Veganuary, yielding a positive response from the plant-based community. With these new options including 5 new vegan pizzas, meat-alternatives and frozen vegan meals.
With veganism becoming more accessible at every stage, from supermarkets to restaurants, it’s no wonder the amount of people switching to a plant-based diet has risen so much. It seems now people won’t need to consider where they go if they want vegan food as most large chains are now heeding the call for plant-based options on their menus.
It’s changes like this that make me believe we veganism has officially become mainstream. By the end of January this year, a new host of recruits from Veganuary and New Year’s resolutions will have taken up this lifestyle, with brands continuing to be incentivised to provide more plant-based options on their menus. From vegan meals to vegan drinks like Kolibri, it’s a fantastic time for customers to demand their needs are met by businesses.