Plant-based is not the niche market it once was
Hannah Carter is an advocate for the benefits of a plant-based diet and the founder of Oggs – a brand offering an all-plant egg alternative made using aquafaba from chickpeas and a range of vegan cakes.
While vegan diets have reportedly become more attractive to Brits during the coronavirus pandemic, the growth in the sector is nothing new. The vegan market has exploded in recent years and innovation in plant-based foods is seemingly ceaseless, so what is driving this trend?
According to Carter, education and awareness are the biggest factors.
“I only became vegan two-and-a-half years ago. It was only through getting educated, via documentaries and social media, that created a shift in my mindset.”
Greater knowledge of the health benefits of a vegan diet and environmental impact of animal farming, says Carter, is one of the greatest driving forces. “We are realising that animal protein, at least in the volumes that we are eating it, isn’t as good for us as previously thought and it is having a huge impact on the planet.”
It is hard to separate the growing range of plant-based alternatives and the increasing number of adherents of a vegan diet, but the availability of good-quality vegan products certainly makes a shift in eating habits more accessible.
“We live in such a fast-paced world now that you have to make it easy and convenient for people to make a change.
“Many people who don’t want to go fully vegan have more meat-free options now.”
While the multiples can afford to give over large areas of shelf space to what is still something of a niche product area, independents may have fewer options when it comes to stocking plant-based lines. But, says Carter, this should not deter smaller retailers from offering their customers vegan products as the market is not just limited to vegans.
“Allplants, the plant-based ready meal delivery service report that 79% of their customers are not vegan, so it’s no longer a vegan market, it’s a market for those looking for alternatives. I would be looking at my range and thinking wherever I’m doubling up on two or three meat or dairy lines, I would be exchanging for some of the best-selling plant-based alternatives.”
A vegan diet also comes with a raft of eco-friendly credentials and environmental concerns are a huge driver of consumer behaviour.
“From what we know, 78% of people looking for plant-based are doing it for environmental reasons,” says Carter. “But you have to be looking at not just the product, but the supply chain and how it’s grown to ensure it is truly sustainable.
“Right now, it’s plant vs. animal, but soon it will be plant vs. plant.”
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