Another January has rolled around, along with all those resolutions that are usually forgotten by Valentine’s Day.
Social media now plays a major part in these personal pledges and has spawned various January-based portmanteau hashtags, such as the teetotal-promoting Dryanuary.
Overtaking that in popularity this year is Veganuary, where followers take on the arguably less onerous prospect of eating a vegan diet for a month.
Started in 2014 by an animal welfare advocacy charity, Veganuary challenges people to join the 542,000 existing vegans who eat a purely plant-based diet.
It encourages them to not only eat healthily, but to also consider the sources of their food, especially the 70 billion animals per annum that are killed worldwide.
“Last year Waitrose reported a five-fold increase in website searches for vegan products, while Sainsbury’s, Tesco and even Aldi have announced new vegan ranges across their stores”
This year it’s set to top 52,000 participants in the UK and 120,000 worldwide, up from a record-breaking 40,000 in 2017. Savvy retailers are understandably sitting up and taking notice, and not just in January.
Many other retailers and restaurants are already including vegan options to stake a claim in this emerging market.
The popularity of veganism has also been bolstered by celebrity endorsement. F1 driver Lewis Hamilton and pop star Ariana Grande are the most recent adoptees, but the number of well-known figures embracing the lifestyle grows every year.
Many of them even sticking with it when the novelty and the publicity boost wear off.
But for committed vegans, it’s not just about diet. The three main reasons cited for going vegan are animal welfare, environmental concern and health. For me it was all three that led to my joining their ranks around seven years ago.
I pretty soon discovered just how many relatively mundane products contain animal derivatives. For example, while I knew that many wines weren’t vegan, I was disappointed to discover that many beers aren’t either, especially as I was in a pub at the time!
Many major beer and wine brands now cater for vegans and make a point of telling them on their packaging.
And then there’s clothing and other consumables. Strict vegans will avoid wool, silk and honey, but leather is probably the most well known no-no, and one which led to a surprising change in my buying habits.
During a recent perusal of the footwear in my local Tesco I realised that a good deal of their offer is non-leather. I’m sure this was a more price-driven merchandising decision than a plan to woo vegan customers, but it still got my attention.
Traditionally I wouldn’t be looking to buy shoes in a supermarket, but I am now the owner of two pairs of F&F faux leather boots.
Tesco seem to be missing a trick here though as their materials labelling was at best nebulous. Conversely they make great play of labelling other products as ‘real leather’ or ‘cashmere’, but no distinct marketing message to anyone looking to actively avoid those materials.
For Tesco it seems the non-food vegan dimension is unintentional, but for others, like myself, about to launch a business selling vegan fashion and lifestyle products, it’s a USP, and one that every retailer would do well to consider.
One of the major advantages of marketing to this demographic is that they are both vocal and well-connected, especially on social media.
There’s a well-worn joke that will get any vegan rolling their eyes: How do you know someone is a vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. But the salient point for retailers is they tell others as well, especially about any business that caters for them.
So don’t hide your vegan light under a bushel, even if it is plant-based. And remember, a vegan customer is for life, not just for January.