Is Veganuary killing vegan businesses?

Vegan "fish" and chips

I spoke to the owner of a vegan small business last week who is considering their options after a downturn in trade.

This year, in particular, has seen a huge rise in the number of vegan products on supermarket shelves. I’ve even written about it myself.

The Greggs release of their vegan steak bakes brought about a similar explosion in PR as the Greggs vegan sausage rolls row – boosting the profile of Greggs and Piers Morgan – and to a lesser extent veganism. The fact both products were already widely available as a vegan version in other shops was lost on absolutely everyone.

But the fact said bakes and sausage rolls are so cheap means that small businesses simply cannot compete. People are buying a vegan steak bake from Greggs and then make a token purchase from the small trader – and these token gestures are not enough to sustain a viable business

I noticed a post on Facebook last week about a small vegan business closing soon, and she raised many of the issues addressed in this blog.

The fact people are struggling financially – especially during January, means that supermarkets are able to tap into the Veganuary market and push the ethical vegan traders out. I understand fully why it’s Veganuary and not Vegurary – New Year’s resolutions and a healthy new year – and it has a ring to it – makes perfect sense. I just wish that more independent vegan traders are promoted alongside the big-name launches.

The Christmas Vegan Festival I co-organise saw a drop in numbers this year, but was still a great success, I believe people will save their money and spend at similar events – but vegan businesses need all of the vegan events they attend to be successful in order to continue trading – or in the case of High Street firms need people to go to them at lunchtime instead of the local supermarket od big name brand. A point raised by this blog.

Of course, I understand that some vegans simply have to go for the cheapest option, that for me is buying veg from the local market and cooking from scratch. It’s worth remembering that many of the products from independent traders are hand-made, not mass-produced like those on supermarket shelves.

I, like many older vegans, grew up when supermarkets had no vegan options and I, like others, managed to get by just fine by cooking from scratch and supporting the few vegan traders out there. It’s also worth remembering that independent traders are often solely vegan – unlike supermarkets and their ilk – they do not have a separate pot for vegan money and meat product money – the same applies to takeaway branches now offering a token vegan burger.

It must be pointed out that the issues raised in this blog also applies to fruit and vegetables – which last longer and taste nicer when purchased from your local market.

Vegans take over the world

As we race into 2020 and another promising start to Veganuary, it seems that retailers are falling over themselves in a bid to get some of the vegan pounds – especially since 300,000 people have signed up to take part this year. That’s in addition to the vegan army already marching through the world’s supermarket aisles.

With Greggs receiving most of the publicity in the new year for their Vegan Steak Bake the predictable response on every Facebook thread was “It’s not a steak bake if it’s vegan”. One would think that non-vegans are becoming seriously obsessed with all things vegan – their displeasure is seriously good publicity though, I think Piers Morgan alone drove Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll Success Van.

Iceland Vegan Products

For me personally, it was the Iceland Vegan Cheese and Onion Pastie I was most excited about. As a vegan of 20 years, that is the thing I still miss and I was heartbroken that my local branch had sold out this afternoon. I had one from an independent vegan shop in Leicester a few years ago and that one was divine, so I’m hoping for more of the same from Iceland. I did notice, however, they now have No Yolk Vegan Mayo and Piri Piri Mayo, which I can’t wait to try and they’ve added mushroom steaks to the range too. Mushrooms are my favourite food in the world – so I’m excited about these too.

In the battle for publicity pixels, KFC has been biting hard at Gregg’s heels with their Vegan Chicken Burger. And, while this means that young vegans can eat fast food with their meat-eating friends without feeling left out, it also provokes fierce debate on vegan forums. Personally, I’d never eat in KFC or McDonalds, their direct link to the meat industry makes it hard for me to stomach, but not all vegans agree with me.

M&S Tofish & chips.jpg

Something else which excited me was the Tofish and Chips addition to MArks & Spencer’s Plant Kitchen range, Sadly the vegan fish is tasteless and you get about seven chips with it. I had half a packet of their Dirty Fries with the meal too and I was still left wanting more. Some vegan meals are better than others.

It does seem much easier to eat a vegan diet these days, but it’s also much easier to live on processed food alone. This article is about the mass of new lines on supermarket shelves this Veganuary.

When I became vegan, you could only really get processed vegan food from the local health food shop and I’m sure many vegans cooked from scratch out of necessity. So it was the launch of Jack Monroe’s Veganish which excited me most. I’ve long been an advocate of cheap and easy vegan cooking and Jack’s recipes are absolutely spot on in that respect. Very tasty too.

I am optimistic about the growth in veganism but would like to see more people using smaller independent fully vegan traders.

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