Veganuary 2018: the year of meat-free NPD?

Today, Tesco launched their 20-strong Wicked Kitchen vegan range, a range of completely vegan ready meals, pizzas and food-to-go offerings. It was undoubtedly a response to the astronomical increase in demand for meat and dairy free products. 

Tesco joins a long line of supermarkets and brands branching out into the category: Sainsbury’s this week launched their latest range of seven vegan products – including the much-anticipated pulled jackfruit; whilst Pieminister last week announced the launch of their very first vegan pie.  

It isn’t just on the retail side of food and drink that the trend has caught hold, either. Vegan dishes are becoming increasingly commonplace on menus in both independent and chain restaurants.

This isn’t limited to salad, pasta or standard ‘vegan’ dishes either – options such as vegan burgers, pizza, curries and oriental dishes are becoming the norm. PETA hit the headlines this week, launching a petition asking bakery chain Greggs to produce a vegan version of their famous sausage roll. 

Meanwhile, popular Italian restaurant Zizzis has introduced a limited edition ‘Vegan Avocado Rainbow Pizza’ to its menu, in honour of ‘Veganuary’.  

The sudden introduction of all of these vegan lines does deliberately coincide with the ‘Veganuary’ campaign. Devised by animal-rights group PETA, Veganuary challenges consumers to adopt a vegan diet for the entirety of January with a view to promoting the diet more permanently. The sceptical could, therefore, argue that in the first month of 2018, food and drink launch trends are being skewed somewhat.  

However, a report in 2016 by the Vegan Society highlighted the colossal growth in popularity veganism has seen over the last ten years – an increase of 360% to over 542,000 British citizens. In 2018, with the popularity of veganism having skyrocketed further over the past year, that figure looks to have increased further – with estimates placing it at almost 1% of the population. This certainly implies that veganism is here to stay – not just for January. 

When it comes to meat-free alternatives, veganism is only part of the picture. Whilst the number of vegans in the UK remains in the thousands despite its growth, the vegetarian market encompasses a huge 1.8% of the UK population – at over 1.2 million consumers. These are of course consumers who purchase a large amount of vegan products, although are open to meat-alternatives that contain animal produce such as dairy and eggs.  

Somewhat controversially, one of Europe’s largest poultry producers, PHW, hit the headlines just last week with its partnership with cultured meat start-up, SuperMeat. The latter produces cultured lab-grown meat, which it claims is animal-friendly and suitable for vegetarians. The meat is grown from cells that are painlessly extracted from chickens. This latest NPD practice, however, raises ethical questions. Is what is technically cloned meat safe? And is it truly suitable for vegetarians, given that it does claim to still be meat? 

However contentious the idea of cultured meat may be, howeverit serves to further reinforce just how much the market is growing. And it isn’t just strict avoidance of meat and/or animal products that’s booming in popularity, either.

 ‘Flexi-tarianism’, a diet that seeks to reduce the consumption of meat and animal products as much as possible, whilst maintaining a degree of flexibility. This was predicted as a key food trend for 2017 by various sources, and that it was.

It allows followers to drastically reduce their meat intake for whatever reason they may have for turning vegetarian – be it ethical; environmental; or health-related but still allow themselves to occasionally consume animal products. 

Whilst this aspect of the meat-free trend is far harder to obtain statistics for, the number of those inspired to at least reduce their meat and animal produce intake has undoubtedly escalated.  

If 2017 is anything to go by, it certainly seems that 2018 will be the year of meat-free NPD.  

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