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Veganuary is for a new kind of vegan … the rise of the flexigans

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BIG THINKING

Veganuary is for a new kind of vegan … the rise of the flexigans

Dr. Russ Willson
Partner
Hall & Partners Global Qualitative Team

LinkedIn Email

In 2003, the American Dialect Society voted ‘flexitarian’ as the year's most useful word, describing the increasing number of people eating a largely vegetarian diet, but taking a less strict approach to avoiding meat and fish-based products at all costs.  As we move into a new decade, and buoyed by the increasingly prominent Veganuary, it’s now impossible to walk around London without being bombarded with each new café and restaurant’s vegan offering.  From Coco Di Mama’s UK first Vegan Bacon Sandwich, to Costa’s Vegan smoky ham and cheeZe toastie, to the infamous Gregg’s Vegan Sausage Roll, there are now an ever-increasing range of available products.  Beyond the high street, the likes of Old El Paso and Heinz are also taking the opportunity to highlight the Vegan credentials of their core products with new campaigns.

And with Waitrose’s 2019-20 food and drink report stating that for the first time, Vegan ready meals are outperforming their vegetarian counterparts, there’s a temptation to imagine that huge numbers of Brits might be fully embracing Veganism.  Indeed, the Vegan Society reports that the number of people claiming to live a fully Vegan lifestyle quadrupled from 150K in 2014 to 600K in 2019.

However, this is still only 1% of the population. Instead, I wonder if something a little more nuanced is going on.


The number of people claiming to live a fully Vegan lifestyle quadrupled from 150K in 2014 to 600K in 2019


For consumers, if someone else has done all the hard work for them, how much more do they feel they are really compromising to go to the more extreme Vegan version? If you’re choosing a Burger King Rebel Whopper, the burger is the most tangible, visible thing you’re giving up, so once that’s gone, does choosing a vegan bun, cheese and mayo etc constitute any more of a compromise? Especially when for consumers making these choices for health or sustainability reasons, Vegan choices are often perceived as trumping Veggie options – creating further incentive to make the full switch.

I wonder if we might be at the start of seeing an increasing number of people, who haven’t previously seen themselves as either Vegetarian or Flexitarian, skipping straight to Vegan choices where it’s made easy enough for them – think whole meal or snack solutions that simplify the choice such as ready meals, take away choices or on-the-go offerings.



However, making this switch outside of these easy choices is likely to remain more challenging. Being confident enough to order or pick up a single Vegan product, doesn’t necessarily translate to being able to access, choose and work with all the right ingredients to replicate this in the home. And for many consumers, there will continue to be plenty of occasions where they’re not looking to make any compromises at all.

This creates a situation where while only 1% of the population have fully converted to a Vegan diet and lifestyle, a much higher proportion are taking a more flexible approach to incorporate Vegan choices into their diet; the rise of the Flexigan.

 

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In 2003, the American Dialect Society voted ‘flexitarian’ as the year's most useful word, describing the increasing number of people eating a largely vegetarian diet, but taking a less strict approach to avoiding meat and fish-based products at all costs.  As we move into a new decade, and buoyed by the increasingly prominent Veganuary, it’s now impossible to walk around London without being bombarded with each new café and restaurant’s vegan offering.  From Coco Di Mama’s UK first Vegan Bacon Sandwich, to Costa’s Vegan smoky ham and cheeZe toastie, to the infamous Gregg’s Vegan Sausage Roll, there are now an ever-increasing range of available products.  Beyond the high street, the likes of Old El Paso and Heinz are also taking the opportunity to highlight the Vegan credentials of their core products with new campaigns.

And with Waitrose’s 2019-20 food and drink report stating that for the first time, Vegan ready meals are outperforming their vegetarian counterparts, there’s a temptation to imagine that huge numbers of Brits might be fully embracing Veganism.  Indeed, the Vegan Society reports that the number of people claiming to live a fully Vegan lifestyle quadrupled from 150K in 2014 to 600K in 2019.

However, this is still only 1% of the population. Instead, I wonder if something a little more nuanced is going on.


The number of people claiming to live a fully Vegan lifestyle quadrupled from 150K in 2014 to 600K in 2019


For consumers, if someone else has done all the hard work for them, how much more do they feel they are really compromising to go to the more extreme Vegan version? If you’re choosing a Burger King Rebel Whopper, the burger is the most tangible, visible thing you’re giving up, so once that’s gone, does choosing a vegan bun, cheese and mayo etc constitute any more of a compromise? Especially when for consumers making these choices for health or sustainability reasons, Vegan choices are often perceived as trumping Veggie options – creating further incentive to make the full switch.

I wonder if we might be at the start of seeing an increasing number of people, who haven’t previously seen themselves as either Vegetarian or Flexitarian, skipping straight to Vegan choices where it’s made easy enough for them – think whole meal or snack solutions that simplify the choice such as ready meals, take away choices or on-the-go offerings.



However, making this switch outside of these easy choices is likely to remain more challenging. Being confident enough to order or pick up a single Vegan product, doesn’t necessarily translate to being able to access, choose and work with all the right ingredients to replicate this in the home. And for many consumers, there will continue to be plenty of occasions where they’re not looking to make any compromises at all.

This creates a situation where while only 1% of the population have fully converted to a Vegan diet and lifestyle, a much higher proportion are taking a more flexible approach to incorporate Vegan choices into their diet; the rise of the Flexigan.

Dr. Russ Willson
Partner
Hall & Partners Global Qualitative Team

LinkedIn Email