A record half a million Brits have signed up to the 31 day Veganuary challenge so far this year, and UK supermarkets are finally waking up to the economic potential of plant-based diets.
A decade ago, UK supermarkets, restaurants and TV cooking shows rather ignored people looking for plant-based meals. However, today, the vegan diet is not only booming in popularity, but being driven partly by supermarkets. According to Veganuary, a campaign to get people to embrace veganism for the month of January, the UK’s grocery giants have helped inspire a record 500,000 people to make the pledge this year.
New vegan products and dedicated Veganuary pages on supermarket websites, it says, have helped enlist new recruits. Of course, much of this new enthusiasm for a vegan diet is driven by the understanding that meat and dairy products account for as much as 14 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and more and more people are wanting to do their bit to help address this by switching their diet, either temporarily, occasionally, or permanently. A recent study by Oxford University concluded that adopting a plant-based diet could be the single biggest way for people to improve their health and that of the planet. The study called it a 'win-win' for both health and the environment.
“The way British supermarkets have embraced Veganuary this year is truly gamechanging,” said Veganuary’s Toni Vernelli. “They are not simply using it as a marketing opportunity, but are promoting the many benefits of plant-based eating and encouraging people to give it a try. As bastions of our food supply, they know that the only sustainable way forward is plant-focused.”
With the UK market for vegan food products predicted to swell to £658m this year, there is of course a financial incentive for supermarkets to jump on the (meat-free) gravy train and offer more plant-based foodstuffs. Enter Asda, which announced this week that it will trial a vegan butcher counter at its Watford store.
Also, London has just become home to Rudy's, the capital's first vegan butchers. “People understand what it is that we’re selling,” co-founder Matthew Foster told Reuters. “It’s all designed to emulate meat. It tastes like meat, it’s got meat-like texture.” As more people embrace plant-focused diets, we are likely to see more and more of these shops popping up. In the meantime, if you're not based near Islington in north London, you can order online from Rudy's.
Further evidence that plant-based diets have broken into the mainstream is also provided by Deliveroo, which reported this week that orders for vegan takeaways have jumped dramatically this year.
Want to give a plant-based diet a try? See Veganuary for tips, inspiration and recipes.