Why wholesalers are missing out on vegan opportunities

vegan food

Lynne Elliot on why wholesalers need to react to the growing opportunities provided by vegan foods.

Lynne Elliot is chief executive of the Vegetarian Society

Advocates of veganism include Bryan Adams and Gwyneth Paltrow. But embracing a vegan lifestyle is so much more than a passing celebrity fad. In the last four years, Google searches in the UK for the term ‘vegan foods’ have quadrupled, and it’s little wonder the nation is curious given the increasing number of column inches we have seen being dedicated to an animal-free existence. 

A recent YouGov survey found that 56% of Brits said they didn’t need meat for a good meal, with only 18% stating the opposite. Of the respondents who were cutting back on meat, 33% were doing so for health reasons, and 29% due to the increased cost of eating meat.

Due to the nation’s continued focus on health and wellbeing, veganism – along with vegetarianism, flexitarianism and meat-reducing generally – offers a genuine solution for consumers looking for a healthier, more animal-friendly lifestyle. As avoiding meat and animal by-products becomes mainstream, retailers, foodservice vendors and those wholesalers who serve them should not be excluding large sections of their audience.

A problem we often hear from vegans is that finding suitable products can be difficult, and on occasion, impossible. When they do find a potential solution, it can often be just as tricky to determine the exact origins of a product and its vegan credentials. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve recently launched the Vegetarian Society Approved vegan trademark to assure consumers that a product doesn’t contain any animal by-products or genetically modified organisms, or that it has not undergone animal testing.

This problem provides a real opportunity for wholesalers. Diversifying the range offered to time-poor customers to include vegan food options will not only open up sales opportunities with a new audience, perhaps previously not catered for, but will also encourage upselling opportunities with consumers potentially ‘dipping their toe’ into a more animal-free lifestyle.

Although the number of people in the UK strictly following a vegan diet is believed to be around 550k, this has grown by more than 360% in the last 10 years. Therefore, a pub or restaurant not having a vegan option on the menu potentially loses one customer, or a group of customers. This is where wholesalers can step in to ensure that this occurrence is a rare one, or ideally, that it does not happen at all.

When branching out into any burgeoning sector, wholesalers should take time to consider the ranges they choose to stock wisely, in order to ensure they meet the needs of consumers, as well as offering the best return on investment. This is particularly relevant to the vegan market, given the passion and dedication felt by many consumers who choose to opt for an entirely meat-free and dairy-free diet.

As a sector that has traditionally been under-catered for, brand trust is very important to both the vegan and vegetarian communities. Our clients often tell us that they carry our trademark as a trusted symbol of provenance. The decision to introduce our latest trademark was made following continued interest from brands in being able to prove their vegan credentials and give customers further peace of mind.

As veganism becomes increasingly mainstream, it is important that wholesalers react and develop their offering for their customers accordingly in order to stay up to date with the desires of consumers. 

Fact box

Vegetarian: Abstain from eating meat and fish, but consume dairy products

Vegan: Abstain from eating meat, fish, dairy products, and honey

Flexitarian: Eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but occasionally eat meat

Pescetarian: Eat fish and dairy products, but don’t eat other types of meat


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