With the worldwide rise of veganism 2018 has been dubbed the year of the vegan, and it is definitely living up to its name. But with the rising number of vegan alternatives comes a huge amount of criticism about how the food is being marketed. In one of the more drastic examples, France recently passed a law banning the makers of meat alternatives from advertising products using the same terms as traditional foods. This means that manufacturers can no longer use the terms “sausages”, “steak”, “burgers”, or “fillet” on packaging for vegetarian products in France, for fear of misleading shoppers.
Plant-based meat alternatives are not the only foods gaining popularity as veganism becomes more widely known. According to Amazon, tofu sales skyrocketed by a massive 140% at the start of 2018, while newer brands are dedicated to creating entirely vegan products. British-based company Huel produce nutritionally complete meals in powdered form, offering a “convenient product that contain[s] all of the nutrients”. Big brands are also jumping on the bandwagon to offer their own vegan-friendly products. Ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s launched its own line of vegan ice cream in September 2017.
Here, we’ll explore the future of veganism, and what the latest trends could mean for food manufacturers and consumers alike.
Veganism is gaining popularity around the world
The number of vegans in the world is rising rapidly, and millennials are a major driving force behind this trend. The millennial move to veganism is closely associated with a broader desire to shop ethically. A recent survey by Aflac found that a whopping 92% of millennial consumers are more likely to buy products from ethical companies, and that 82% of companies believe these brands outperform competitors that lack ethical principles. Because of this rise in ethical living, vegan brands are getting even more popular across the world.
In London, the renowned vegan fast food chain Temple of Seitan has announced the opening of a third site, taking over the cafe at Hackney Downs vegan market. Other cities are making a name for themselves as vegan hotspots worldwide. Berlin, for example, has become known as the vegan capital of the world thanks to its impressive number of purely vegan restaurants and vegan-friendly establishments. The German capital is also known for being a startup hub, and welcomes a number of budding, young entrepreneurs, keen to make a difference in the world. It’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that many of these entrepreneurs could found and run ethical companies themselves, further increasing veganism’s popularity in the future.
Meat-free alternatives are competing with the meat industry
As vegan meat alternatives continue to grow in popularity, ranchers and farmers around the world are starting to complain. The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association has deemed the labelling of vegan products “misleading”. The group argued that if a product is going to be labelled as “beef”, it should come from the flesh of cattle, arguing that meat-free alternatives, such as Fry’s or Beyond Meat, should clearly label their products as being meat-free.
However, the founder and CEO of Beyond Meat, Ethan Brown, has argued that rather than being misled by the packaging, shoppers who buy meat-free products are already looking for these alternatives, and the packaging is simply helping them find it faster. He also suggested that the current debate surrounding the origin of meat, and what constitutes a “burger”, can even help the meat-free food industry.
Encouraging people to talk about where their food comes from starts a discussion about what meat actually is, and whether the origin of that meat is important to the consumer. One of the biggest reasons people turn to veganism is an aversion to animal cruelty, and a desire to be more ethical, which goes against factory farming. This conversation could help fuel the change in how people eat, and could force farmers to be more transparent with the standards they follow, and ensure there are basic rules and regulations set in place for animals across the world.
With the rise in veganism comes a rise in ethical living in general: the zero waste and raw food movements are also having their time in the spotlight. More millennials are blogging about their commitment to living a zero-waste lifestyle in order to reduce their carbon footprint and the amount of plastic in landfills. Kathryn Kellogg for example, made headlines when she managed to fit a year’s worth of trash into a single 8oz mason jar, and Lauren Singer has over 200,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel, Trash is for Tossers.
Influencers with this much power are managing to encourage a discussion around what ethical living is, allowing fans around the world the chance to rethink their life choices. Whether this is making people think about the environmental impact, or their impact on animals, more people are opting for a more ethical lifestyle. And big brands are definitely starting to notice this change. UK pub giants Wetherspoons announced at the end of 2017 it would be removing single use plastic straws from all of its branches nationwide. The number of leading companies working towards using reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging by 2025 has also increased, according to a recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Even smaller brands are taking this trend on board, with the aforementioned Huel utilising minimal packaging for its products.
The current wave of veganism doesn’t seem to be a passing trend, nor will it vanish easily. It’s part of a broader trend towards ethical living, driven largely by millennials. As this generation becomes more ingrained within the workforce, we can expect more cruelty-free brands to flourish, whether this is simply through increased demand or through newly formed ethical startups.