The impact of Veganuary on interest in plant-based food has grown tremendously since its inception almost a decade ago. What began in 2014 as a UK-non-profit-based challenge for people to go vegan for a month is now a worldwide phenomenon and household name. The campaign expanded from 3300 participants in 2014 to an anticipated 650,000 today, with data showing one person every 2.4 seconds signs up for the challenge. It now has offices in seven countries (UK, US, Germany, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and India) and participants from almost every country in the world. The campaign is making waves across retail and foodservice like never before.
Aside from being an exciting time for vegan-curious consumers, Veganuary offers a big boost for businesses offering plant-based products. Last year established brands embraced Veganuary with new ranges. This included M&S’s 175 new vegan products, Burger King’s vegan nuggets, Subway’s fake meat sandwiches, Domino’s PepperoNAY pizza, Babybel’s plant-based mini cheeses and Starbuck’s TuNAH sandwich. This year has seen the launch of the first vegan Toad in the Hole in supermarkets, as well as Heinz launching the first plant-based version of its Cream of Tomato Soup and Beanz and Sausges, THIS launched its isn’t Streaky Bacon after 2-years of production, Squeaky Bean’s vegan Chorizo, and a range of new products from both Starbucks and Greggs.
2023 has also seen new product launches from major fast-food chains with McDonald’s launching its Double McPlant, and Burger Kind launching its vegan bacon and cheese across all 510 UK restaurants. So how can companies make the most of the month-long campaign?
Toni Vernelli, Veganuary’s International Head of Communications and Marketing, explains that Veganuary is important for businesses for two reasons: “Firstly, there is the sheer number of people who do it. Last year 630,000 signed up on the website, but research from Kantar and YouGov found that many more joined in without registering. That amounts to a lot of new customers in January who are buying plant-based for the first time. Secondly, because there is so much hype around Veganuary, supermarkets and high street restaurants do promotions on their vegan ranges. Figures show that even people who aren’t taking part are buying more plant-based products in January. So it is a great time to reach flexitarians.”
There are lots of ways that businesses can get involved and maximize the Veganuary effect. There is a downloadable business toolkit and the Veganuary corporate outreach team can be contacted for ideas. Special offers are listed on their website, so if businesses tell them, they will get a listing. A lot of brands do outdoor advertising and stunts to get media attention. It is an ideal time to send a truck out with samples – to get products in front of customers when they are curious and open minded about vegan food.
Toni Vernelli adds: “You can use our logo on your packaging, promotional material, and social media posts without any copyright issues. Because the logo is so recognizable, it makes it very easy for participants to find things to eat. We have over a million followers on social media and have channels in English, German, Spanish and Portuguese. The hashtag #Veganuary2022 was viewed 42.8 million times on TikTok. So, using the hashtags is a great way to get customers to hear about new products.”
Veganuary sends a questionnaire to all registered participants, and the responses are a great resource for businesses, with insights on what people find hardest. This research shows that despite huge improvements there are still gaps in the market. “The thing people miss most is cheese. There can never be enough of it because there are so many different varieties that people want veganised. We’re told the supermarkets have not yet hit the nail on the head with vegan cheese. People also say they miss eggs. There still isn’t an alternative to a poached egg. Milk chocolate comes up quite a lot. Even though there’s plenty out there it tends to be very expensive compared to dairy equivalents and doesn’t come in small bars, the size you’d see at a petrol station. And any type of fish product – there’s still not nearly enough fake fish out there.”
This year’s campaign theme focuses on a key issue for consumers right now: affordability. There will be examples of budget meals, one pot dinners, and making products go further to get best value, for example by using sausages in a casserole. Veganuary will also start preparing for its 10th anniversary, taking place in January 2024. It will be a chance to celebrate the advances in vegan food between then and now. Toni Vernelli reminds us: “Back In 2014 you would have struggled to find much more than a single brand of sausages, tofu, and felafel whereas now supermarkets have whole aisles of chilled and frozen products. There isn’t a restaurant chain or takeaway that doesn’t have vegan options.”
Toni Vernelli believes there is scope for further collaboration in the future: “It would be great to do an award for best new product. We would also like to encourage staff at plant-based businesses to take the workplace challenge themselves, if they are not already vegan. It is a great way to get people enthusiastic about the products they make, experiment with recipes and bring in food to share.”
You can see the latest news from the Veganuary campaign, including new product and menu launches on their instagram page.