Veganuary and more! Using trends to optimise your income and visibility

The sustainability movement is showing no signs of losing momentum. Every year more people are making changes to use climate-friendly alternatives, whether it’s opting for clean energy, avoiding single-use plastics or abandoning unsustainable fast fashions. However, none of these eco-friendly choices are as popular as veganism, and let us explain why.

Veganism in the U.K.

Not so long ago it was a hard task finding vegan food in British supermarkets. The meat-free consumer would be lucky to find a bean burger or a packet of Quorn sausages hidden away. It couldn’t be more different today. Since 2020, every one of Britain's top supermarkets has launched its own brand of vegan products. Shops now have whole sections devoted to substitutes, from shelves stocked full of plant-based milks, to aisles brimming with meat-free mince, burgers and even steaks. Who’d have thought that we'd be dropping the beef and dining in on cauliflower steaks?

Being a vegan consumer is easier than ever, and it is only set to get easier as a quarter of all new foods introduced to British supermarkets in 2019 were vegan. Plant-based food is now the fastest-growing takeaway. Ubereats has reported a 163% increase in vegan orders in 2021, and it makes sense after a year of lockdowns - people have started to turn online to find eco-friendly alternatives for their usual Saturday treat. But there is no better way into the market than through Veganuary - the extraordinarily popular campaign to eat clean for the month of January that has swept through the nation.

Veganuary - bigger than Christmas?

Veganuary has generated unprecedented interest in the meat-free diet - over 600,000 people signed up for the challenge in 2022, and according to Veganuary statistics, 72% planned to follow the lifestyle after the month ended. This means that the majority of those who join up intend on sticking with it - we cannot ignore the data, vegan food is here to stay.  

This trend hasn't gone unnoticed. New vegan restaurants seem to be opening all the time, pop onto Ubereats and you’re bound to find a new Vegan listing, whilst all of your favourite restaurants are loading meat-free options onto their menus. Plant-based alternatives were once a rarity, however it’d now be odd not to see at least one vegan option on a menu. Matthew Glover, the co-founder of Veganuary, recently revealed that Veganuary is now a bigger retail event than Christmas… Yes! Than Christmas!

Veganuary is everywhere, you needn’t spend much time on social media before you run into a celebrity endorsement. More and more elite athletes are promoting the health benefits of the diet, among them are Lewis Hamilton, David Haye and Venus Williams. Then there are the social media influencers like Tabitha Brown who uses her TikTok platform of 4.5 million followers to promote Veganism. These influencers are especially popular among the younger generations, and it is younger people who are turning vegan.

Generation Z is the most meat-free generation, whilst it seems that a quarter of the U.K. population will become vegan by 2025.

It is the next generation who are going to drive the change in the hospitality sector. Businesses should be ready to meet this change. Give the consumer what they are looking for and grow your business to meet the demand. It would be a mistake not to get on board, not only would you be aligning yourselves with a moral cause, but you could miss out on a flourishing market and a chance to make a name for yourself. Take the chance today - launch into the vegan market and don’t look back.

How to capitalise on the trend without sacrificing your brand identity.

We should have covered enough data by now to convince you of the benefits of embracing the vegan trend. So, how do you take advantage without having to change your brand’s identity? Change should not have to come at the sacrifice of your well-built and personal brand. Not all vegan success stories began as vegan-specialist businesses. Some of the biggest beneficiaries of veganism are brands that have had nothing to do with the movement.

Think KFC, Greggs, Burger King, McDonald's. All of these have made enormous gains out of alternative foods whilst hardly changing the face of their brands. Who would have thought a company like KFC would make one of the most popular meat-free burgers? This is the same company that’s built their business around fried chicken and meaty gravy with hardly any vegetables in sight. This shows that companies do not have to be totally vegan to make the most of the trend, even those built on meat can gain from the Veganuary bubble.

Who could forget the sensation caused by Greggs' vegan sausage rolls? The release of the meat-free pastries caused such a stir that most Brits wouldn't have been able to avoid hearing about the snack on the week they were released. The Independent states that the meat-free alternatives provided by Greggs are responsible for driving a bumper 58% rise in year-end profits. Big brands are buying into the vegan trend, and they are making big wins.

But these brands are largely the same as before they launched their plant-based alternatives. Embracing the Vegan trend does not require total reinvention. You can draw in new customers whilst still satisfying your regulars; start by adding one meat-free option and build from there. Whether it’s a vegetable curry, a falafel wrap, or a cauliflower steak - there is a Vegan option for every cuisine and there is always a way to incorporate it into your menu without having to make drastic changes.

What is the data telling us?

As we’ve said, consumers are constantly searching for plant-based alternatives and we only need to glance at the data to see how often. One of the most popular search formats is simply: vegan ( ___ ). Whether it be vegan cakes, vegan protein powder, vegan sweets, chocolate, cheese, or curry. All of these are reaching fifteen thousand searches per month, with most nearing eighteen thousand.

You read that right: eighteen thousand searches a month! There is enormous potential to be made for your business if you can take just a fraction of that interest and divert it towards your brand.

Adapting your social profiles to include vegan keywords is an easy way to begin getting this attention. Phrases like ‘vegan alternative’, ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethically sourced’ are all signposting your business as Vegan-friendly.

Vegan customers are loyal and want to support the industry. Embrace the interest that they bring. Remember, it is not only self-identifying vegans who want to order vegan food. Veganuary is evidence enough for the fact that people want to try new things and consumers are always seeking out new options. Simply adding one or two options to an already established menu will generate new interest. Your established business need not overhaul its identity to be able to meet new trends.

A popular choice which is impacting the supply

Vegan alternatives are in such demand that a plant-based variation of any popular food is an advert in itself. If you can produce a vegan variation of a popular dish, it would be a wise, and easy, decision to do so. And it is easy to turn our staple foods vegan, something that is only going to get easier as the vegan trend keeps growing. For those who look at the meat-free market and feel daunted at the prospect of diving in, most of the hard work is already being done for you. Supermarkets are stocking more and more meat-free alternatives every day, and the quality of these products is skyrocketing.

No longer do Vegans have to eat bland meat-free alternatives when shops like Aldi sell chorizo, masala or even Lincolnshire style vegan sausages that taste as good (if not better) than the real thing. If you are wanting to get stuck in and making meat-free variations yourself, then there are hundreds of vegan food bloggers to inspire you. Try out new recipes and then adapt these to fit your restaurant's style. For a Chef tired of cooking the same menu, getting creative with plant-based cooking might bring an exciting energy back into the kitchen.  

Alternatively, if your product is and always was vegan - but you haven’t advertised it as such - then make sure to advertise it as vegan. A consumer survey shows that 91% of shoppers are more likely to buy clearly identified vegan products rather than reading the ingredients themselves. This is an easy hack that is sure to increase the number of orders you take for your chickpea curry!

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Veganuary is so popular when the movement is so tied up with helping the environment. People sign up for Veganuary with the intent of ‘doing their bit for the planet’: a vegan diet produces 6% fewer greenhouse emissions and requires 27% less energy. If a restaurant can help these consumers be environmentally conscious and give them a delicious meal, then it’s a win for both the consumer and the business.

How to use the vegan trend for businesses not in the food and drink sector

Incorporating vegan keywords is a quick and easy way to boost your online presence. If you need advice on building your online presence and using digital tools, check out one of our previous articles here.

But how do you get in on the popularity when you aren’t part of the food and drink sector? The same can be applied to the vegan trend as any trend. You must expand the larger trend into sub-trends and sub-categories to see where your business can find a way in.

Picture a trend as a tree, with branches and twigs and so on representing the many sub-sections of the larger trend. Exploding a trend like this is a great way to find a way in.

Looking back to veganism, the food section is of course the largest area of the trend. There are fermented foods, gut-healthy foods, mindful foods, raw foods, paleo or KETO diets, etc. All of these are trends in their own right and in return attract great online interest.

But a large part of veganism has nothing to do with food at all, but with sustainability. The second section of this exploded ‘trend-tree’ diagram would show trends to do with the environment, water usage, reducing food waste, single-use plastics, buying local, organic and seasonal etc.

In other words, you do not have to be in the food and drink sector to be able to leverage the popularity of veganism. You can equally profit off of the trend by marketing sustainability. If you need tips on going plastic-free, check out our other article.

By advertising their efforts to be more eco-friendly, businesses will boost their online presence as they enter into the vegan conversation. Green businesses are as much a part of the trend as food.

How to predict trends

Veganism is a multi-billion pound industry that has been generated in less than a decade. Those who got in first have made big wins. So, how do we predict the next trend? There is no concrete answer for this. Businesses have always been looking out for ‘the next big thing.’ Trends are normally predicted through expensive and prolonged market research studies, or occasionally through happy accidents.

A simple way to follow trends is by making the most out of trends that already exist. Sift through the calendar and plan around the seasons, around yearly sporting events, around monthly events, just like Veganuary. You don’t need to have the means to invest in complicated and expensive trend prediction software - we can still make the most out of the yearly trends already set in motion.

Something to take away

Whether or not vegan food is for you, the vegan market is here to stay. It only takes a small number of changes to adapt an existing business into a vegan-friendly model, this is in terms of food and business sustainability. Make the change today and make the most out of a flourishing market. Save time by using Brigad to find qualified staff to support your businesses, and free up time in your schedule to plan ahead and optimise the seasonality of your menu, and to stay on trends.