At the start of 2020, all eyes were on reversing the climate crisis. With the words of our beloved David Attenborough echoing across the nation, we set to work making this year a turning point for change. Sustainability was leading the charge on a global scale as individuals began to demand better of themselves, their communities and most importantly, the brands and businesses at the top of the pile.
Although a global pandemic meant turning attention to saving lives, the time spent in a national lockdown reinforced some key fundamentals: the importance of health, wellness, supporting local and preserving the planet.
Rooted in better living for all, plant-based eating has undoubtedly been the defining consumer trend-turned-lifestyle choice of the past 12 months. In 2019, one quarter of all new food product launches in the UK were labelled vegan, as brands raced to alter, experiment with and develop plant-based offerings to meet a ‘flexitarian’ consumer demand. Now, a plethora of great-tasting, healthy and sustainable alternatives wrestle for space on supermarket shelves, as 2 in 5 households now buy plant-based and dairy-free.
The category has grown by 140% in the last six years and forecasts show the trajectory is only set to continue. It may be hard to believe, but the plant based revolution has only just begun and brands must continue to innovate in order to unlock new consumer opportunities and normalise the category for all.
Looking to the Future
This month, the Veganuary movement welcomed it’s 1 millionth official participant since it launched in 2014. With the ‘New Year, New Me’ kick-starter on the horizon and the nation setting its hopes for a better future in 2021, January presents another explosive opportunity for the plant-based category.
Outside the supermarket, Veggly – the Vegan dating app, recently reported it had witnessed growth eightfold in the last year. From leisure, to fashion and cosmetics, brands must recognise that “plant-based” exists outside of the food industry too and consumers will continue to scrutinise brands from all angles. With the festive season approaching, even the roast dinner, the holy grail of British cuisine, is falling from its pedestal, as Tesco predicts around 5 million Brits will trade the turkey for a meat-free centrepiece this Christmas.
One Planet, One Purpose
The category still has a long way to go in terms of educating consumers about the real benefits of plant-based to both individuals and the environment, as well as breaking down barriers such as taste perception. Recent votes by EU lawmakers have called for tighter curbs on labelling plant-based dairy substitutes, so brands will have their work cut out to ensure continued visibility and penetration.
The positive here is that the plant-based revolution is building momentum. Category leaders across meat and dairy free are expanding their ranges, their messaging and their presence on supermarket shelves for occasions that aren’t just dinner time. However, at a time when new vegan products are flooding to market and competition is increasing, it’s important that brands don’t lose sight of the ultimate purpose here: health, sustainability and saving the planet!
Feeding Our Future
With 79% of consumers now changing their purchase preferences based on sustainability, we know there’s appetite. However, execution is everything in this game and authenticity and honesty are paramount when it comes to sustainability credentials. As we saw only a few months ago, consumers are savvy and quick to call out brands when they slip up; take the Oatly investor scandal just last month, for example. The Swedish brand faced backlash and boycotting from its once loyal fanbase when a Twitter thread emerged outing their recent investor Blackstone, to deforestation in the Amazon. The news was splashed across social channels, spreading outrage and leaving Oatly scrabbling to explain the logic behind its investor choices.
Health and environment are at the forefront of Gen Z consumer concerns, and emotions are already stirring. Our job is to help brands harness this passion, drive awareness and break barriers to create content that truly moves people to think and change their behaviour in 2021 and beyond.