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005 - Get your vegan business ready for Veganuary

Veganuary can be an amazing time for your vegan business. Here are the four steps to get ready for it.

In January HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people will be signing up for the Veganuary challenge. Veganuary is a worldwide movement to get people to try being vegan for 31 days every January – and although it started out small (in 2014 they had just over 3,000 people take up the challenge) it has grown every year with a staggering 400,000 people signing up through the Veganuary website in 2020. BUT, the Veganuary organisation estimate that ten times as many take on the challenge without officially signing up.

What does this mean for your company? It means there is a big spike in interest for vegan and plant-based products every January. So if you have a vegan company or you sell a plant-based product or service, it means you too can tap into this rise in consumer interest in vegan every year – and leverage the publicity the campaign brings. 

In this episode, David walks you through the 4 steps to put together your own marketing plan for Veganuary, shows you how to get your company involved so you can support the campaign and gives some tips for things you might want to do to make the most of Veganuary.

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Full episode transcript

Hello and welcome to episode five of The Vegan Business Tribe Podcast with myself David Pannell, co-founder of Vegan Business Tribe.  If you have a vegan business, or are thinking of starting one, then Vegan Business Tribe is here to support and inspire you not just to build a vegan business, but to build a SUCCESSFUL vegan business.
And if you want to go beyond the podcast and connect with our community of like-minded vegan entrepreneurs then head over to Vegan Business Tribe .com where you can take part in one of our live business clinics with Lisa and I to answer your questions, of join our online seminars, study our marketing course or just pick up some new friends who are also running their own vegan businesses.
I’m recording today’s episode in November which means that the new year isn’t far away, and Lisa will be asking me how soon we can get away with putting the Christmas tree up – but that also means that HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people will be signing up for the Veganuary challenge in January.  Now, if you haven’t heard of Veganuary – then, where have you been?  Veganuary is a worldwide movement to get people to try being vegan for 31 days every January – and although it started out small, I think when they launched in 2014 they had just over 3,000 people take up the challenge, that has grown every year with a staggering 400,000 people signing up through the Veganuary website in 2020 – but the Veganuary organisation estimate that ten times as many take on the challenge without officially signing up.
Now, what does this mean for your company?  Well, just as the big brands started catching on a couple of years ago:  it means there is a big spike in interest for vegan and plant-based products every January.  It was also quite a smart move for Jane Land and Matthew Glover who founded Veganuary to pick the month of January – because a lot of non-vegans do associate a plant-based diet with being healthier, and it ties in really well with people making new year resolutions to lose weight and improve their lifestyle – before then stuffing themselves with vegan pizza and burgers for the whole of Veganuary and wondering why they have put 10kgs on in a month.  But, for you, if you have a vegan company or you sell a plant-based product or service, it means you too can tap into this rise in consumer interest in vegan every year – and leverage the publicity the campaign brings.  You can even get involved with the campaign yourself as a company, because the people who run Veganuary have actually made it super easy to download graphics and get your business involved without having to officially register.  If you’re a large company or high street brand, then you will likely want to get in touch with Veganuary HQ to team up on a campaign, but for the rest of us we can download their business support tool kit for free from their website – and this links through to a resource library of graphics, logos, poster templates and loads of really great stuff so that YOU can get YOUR business involved with Veganuary too.
So, in a moment I’m going to go through the four steps that you need to follow to make the most of the Veganuary campaign for your own business – but before I dive into all that, first I want to pull out some interesting stats about the TYPE of people that Veganuary is having the biggest impact on.  Now, if you know me – you will know how much I love stats, and Veganuary have them all: First, although Veganuary IS a global campaign, we are seeing the biggest number of official sign-ups coming from the UK, the USA and Germany – which isn’t surprising as the campaign started in the UK then has obviously spread the quickest into countries that currently have the biggest interest in veganism.  But there’s also lots of people signing up from South America, especially in Chile and Argentina.  And Australia also makes the top ten countries, which is quite a feat remembering that Australia only have a population of around 25 million people so that just shows the popularity of people trying plant-based in that region.
Veganuary also records the reasons people give when they sign up to give vegan a go for 31 days, and as vegan business owners, this gives us some real insights into our potential  customers too.  Because the biggest reason people gave for signing up was ‘health’.  And it was ONLY just the biggest reason at nearly 40%, just edging slightly ahead of signing up for the animals, but, again, we’ve got all these people linking ‘giving up meat and dairy’ with ‘eating more healthily’.  But, and this is why I love statistics so much, in the same survey, Veganuary asked what vegan food products people who signed up for the challenge bought the most during the challenge – and the top three were vegan ready-meals, desserts and pizza!  Well, that’s the healthy eating gone straight out of the window then!  But you can learn a lot from this: when people first go plant-based, it just shows that they are looking for these like-for-like convenience products. They want vegan versions of what they are used to – which is why so many people say that a vegan diet is so expensive, they experience the processed vegan food first before realising you can half your food bill on a vegan diet by buying 75% of your weekly shop from the veg aisle in the supermarket.  But these ‘veganised’ versions of what people are already used to – or ‘vegan like-for-like products’ as we call them, they are the entry point for many people to a plant-based diet, and this might be something you can look to develop or highlight to attract more customers all year round – not just in January – as an easy entry-point product for your range.
Veganuary also commissioned an impact assessment in 2019 which showed that the female to male split of people giving up animal products in January was 68% to 32% – so that’s two thirds female to one third male.  That’s quite a definite swing to female consumers, and there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that in male / female couples it is often the woman who gives up animal products before the man.  Again, this is knowledge you can use and you might want to make sure you have a product or campaign that caters to customers who identify as female – and I’m not saying you should ONLY focus on those who identify as female, but in terms of people who join vegan business tribe, we see the same two-thirds female to one third male audience. 
And the final learning we can take away from Veganuary’s statistics are the age-ranges of those who give up meat and dairy for January. And… this might shock you, but the average age of someone trying plant-based was… 41.  Now, we usually think of vegan as being something popular amongst the younger generations – and it is – but a third of people giving up animal products were in the 30 to 44 age bracket and another third were in the 45 to 64 age range.  And that might be a big surprise to you, but it fits in well with what else we know about people’s reasons for first going plant-based.  First, there is a generational bounce:  often we see the daughter or son go vegan first and then they convince their parents to follow.  This might be because the parent has to prepare vegan food because the daughter or son still lives at home so they learn more about it – or perhaps the children have moved out but still regularly visit, so they might keep a carton of oat milk in the fridge and then realise it keeps for longer and it’s actually got quite a nice taste to it so they start buying it for themselves too.
The second reason we see this age range looking ant plant-based is indeed health-based, but not necessarily to lose weight.  A lot of people move away from animal products as a way to combat high cholesterol, or they might have learnt that you can reverse some serious middle-aged health conditions (or avoid them entirely) by ditching meat and dairy. Your body produces all the cholesterol it needs, and if you regularly eat animal products then you’re taking on all that animal’s cholesterol too and your body doesn’t know what to do with it.  That was one of the main reasons I went VEGETARIAN myself – many years before I went vegan.  I received some blood test results that suggested that I was pre-diabetic and I had a number of other markers that I was likely heading towards a future with heart problems.  I reversed all that in just a couple of years by going plant-based.  And it wasn’t until many years later that I learnt more about how the food got to my plate that I then went fully ethically vegan, and lots of what we would call ‘middle-aged’ people have that same experience.
SO – all that is really interesting and I’ve digressed somewhat; but now we’ve taken a few insights out of Veganuary’s own data that’s going to help us better understand what the customer base is for our vegan products and services, let’s move on to take a look at HOW your company can actually leverage the Veganuary campaign.  Your business supporting Veganuary can actually work as an amazing marketing tool that provides you with the ideal opportunity to increase your visibility. It’s also an ideal opportunity to back a great charity and encourage non-vegans to give veganism a try.  And even if you don’t usually promote your product or service as vegan, Veganuary is the perfect time for you to do this.
Although Veganuary does focus on food – because it’s the obvious starting point for many on their plant-based journey – you don’t need to be producing food products to be involved with the campaign.  You might be a vegan accountant, in which case you could create a workplace Veganuary challenge and keep people updated through your social media.  Or just using the Veganuary campaign logo during January will better connect you with other vegans.  So let’s look at the 4 steps you need to follow to increase your company’s visibility and increase your sales while supporting the Veganuary campaign:
Step one: Plan early.
Now, as with EVERYTHING, the earlier you plan the better. Some of the big brands that Lisa and I have worked with have come to us in November – and these have been high-street brands that usually have minimum lead-times of six months on doing ANYTHING – but they’ve come to us with just a month’s notice asking us to help them with Veganuary.  And my first question is always, “you mean Veganuary in a year and one month’s time don’t you?  Not THIS Veganuary surely?”.  And this is because you need a run-up to make the most out of it, so the earlier you start planning WHAT you are going to do, the more you’re going to be able to leverage it.  But if you HAVE left it until nearly Christmas before starting to think about Veganuary, then you CAN still tie in to it and maybe use it as a dry run for the next one.  As I mentioned earlier, Veganuary have a great online resource where you can download templates, graphics etc that you can put onto your own website and social media campaigns really quickly.  But ideally, you SHOULD be sitting down and planning your Veganuary campaign no later than October to give you time to come up with some marketing ideas, some promotions, get your publicity lined up – and maybe even bring out a new product or service.
And that leads us into:
Step two: Create a Veganuary marketing plan.
Once you’ve decided that you are going to plan, then actually put time in your calendar to work ON that plan.  Block out half a day with your notebook to come up with some ideas of what MEANINGFUL stuff you can do to tie in with Veganuary.  You might want to create some special offers, such as competitions, prize draws or discounts. You don’t even need to offer money off your products or services, and that’s the great thing about being involved in an ETHICAL campaign, instead, you could give 10% of your profits to your local animal charity or shelter during Veganuary – and that will mean the charity will likely share your promotion to their mailing list and through their social media also.
Think if there are any collaborations with OTHER vegan businesses you could do for Veganuary.  Perhaps you could create a new product or package together specifically for Veganuary?  Remember that a lot of people getting involved with Veganuary will be new to plant-based, so can you create something that’s going to be easily accessible for them?  A like-for-like product for example, or some product that gives them an easy introduction to vegan?
But don’t forget to do something exciting for people who are already vegan too.  For example, if you’re a vegan B&B then you could link up with your local vegan restaurant or cafe to offer a special stay and evening dinner (or perhaps take-out) package during Veganuary.  And these sorts of collaborations with other vegan companies, or companies that offer plant-based options, can be a great idea. Lisa and I are a HUGE fan of collaborating because then you can promote your business to two separate audiences – but the earlier you approach these other companies the better that offer can be, and the better promoted it can be by both of you.
Once you’ve planned out exactly WHAT you’re going to do for Veganuary, then you need to plan out HOW you’re going to promote it.  What are you going to send out to your email list in the run up to Veganuary to start to get them excited – and if you don’t have an active email list right now, then you KNOW I’m giving you that look and ask you why?  Also start to plan what you’re going to do on social media, because so many people will be watching the Veganuary hashtags.  Will your promotion give you something you can post about every day, or can you create a daily campaign if not?  For example, can you feature a product a day throughout Veganuary and make sure you’re using the Veganuary logo and hashtags alongside it?  Or can you follow the story of a friend who you have convinced to try vegan for 31 days and keep your audience updated on what they are eating every day?  And make sure that you include the Veganuary sign-up link so that other people can find out more about plant-based.
You can also put together a PR story for what you’re doing about Veganuary – and if you are looking for more information on doing PR for your vegan business, then go back and listen to episode four where we have a brilliant vegan PR masterclass with Eden Green PR.  This is a great way to get your business some coverage at the same time as promoting and supporting the vegan cause. And remember that when you’re writing a press story, it’s the PERSONAL details that make people want to read it – think about why you’re participating in Veganuary, why it matters to you, why you created a vegan business or why you’re helping people go vegan.  Because often, it’s not actually your product or business that is the thing people want to read about.
And how about putting on a local stunt to get your local paper to cover you.  Look at what large brands have have done for inspiration, from getting your friends to camp out outside your shop the night before the launch your new vegan product because they are so keen to try it, through to Frankie & Benny’s challenging Meat Loaf to rebrand as ‘Veg Loaf’ for January to promote their new vegan menu.  You too CAN DO things like this to create a buzz.  You don’t have to be a big brand to make some noise.
So – once you have put aside time to actually plan what you’re going to do for Veganuary, this leads us to:
Step three: Prepare everything you need BEFORE January
Now this sounds really obvious, but a plan is just a plan until you do it.  And to be honest, if you spend more time on your ‘planning’ that on your ‘doing’ then you’re doing it the wrong way around.  A mediocre plan carried out well beats an amazing plan that never gets done.  So now you’ve done your planning, block out time in your calendar to do the doing.
What you ACTUALLY need to do will depend on how you’re planning to leverage Veganuary, but here are ten things you will want to make sure you’ve done before January rolls around:
  1. Do your hashtag research.  Copy down the social media hashtags that you will want to use to link your social to the Veganuary campaign.  The official one is just #Veganuary, but many people will tag the current year to that, so you might see #Veganuary21 or #Veganuary2022 being used also.
  2. Download the Veganuary logos and brand assets from their website.  Veganuary update and refresh their resources every year and you don’t need permission to use them, just make sure you follow their brand guidelines as best as you can and you’re using the latest ones.
  3. Create any graphics and content you need with the Veganuary logo on.  And these don’t need to be just digital graphics, if you have a shop or a physical location that you trade from, get some posters or table stands printed with the campaign on, or make sure you organise a big Veganuary sticker in your window.  You can even do a huge Veganuary display.
  4. If you need to create any new landing pages or content for your website then put a reminder in your diary for when these need to be live by.
  5. Make sure you’ve got everything scheduled early – so email campaigns, you don’t need to wait until the day they are going out to make them, create them early and save them as a draft.  You don’t think Boots or Tesco Supermarket wait until the day before an event to get their email marketing ready do you?  No, they have everything saved and ready to go well before hand and that’s what you are going to do to too – because I’m promoting you to a proper marketeer now, not some fly-by-night marketing cowboy.
  6. Get your PR and stories ready to send right at the start of the campaign. Newspapers probably likely won’t be interested in covering your story in December, but come the first week of January they WILL be looking for up to date relevant stories – so make sure you have everything written before you go into the Christmas break.
  7. If you are collaborating with another company then make sure they are ready too and make it easy for them to share content with their audience, don’t be afraid to make the graphics for them or to write the news story for them to share if they haven’t got their own marketing person.
  8. If you have a good, stand-out press-release, then send it through to the Veganuary team.  As you can imagine, they are a charity and have a limited team, but they do pick out stories and share them on their social media – and if you DO have something that really makes you stand out, then you might just get picked out.  For example – maybe you have decided that you’re going to put on your running shoes and hand-deliver your first order in Veganuary – wherever it comes from in the country.  And if that means your office is in Bristol City and your fist order comes from Yorkshire and you have to spend a week running up the country to deliver it, what a great way to start the year – and that’s something really stand-out that Veganuary would likely share to all their followers.
  9. Also – if you have a Veganuary special offer, then they do also share a lot of these through their own channels also – now, nothing is guaranteed, but they do favour people using the official logo and those who are also prompting people to go sign-up to their website.  So nothing is lost from just sending them your logo, a link to the offer on your website and 50 words that they can share.
  10. And 10 – make sure you’ve put time aside to be ACTIVE throughout the campaign.  Go onto social and click on the hashtags and see what everyone else is doing for Veganuary – you might find some brilliant new collaboration opportunities.  Don’t just make your own social media posts during this time, go and comment on other people’s too and be a conversation starter.  Remember that your goal isn’t just to get instant sales, your goal is to increase your visibility throughout Veganuary and beyond.  And don’t forget your current customers, especially if you are already selling to vegans then don’t forget about them during Veganuary.  Use it as a time to reinforce your vegan credentials, get them involved in the campaign too by asking them to share the Veganuary sign-up link with their own friends.  Veganuary is a great way to let your vegan customers know that, as a company, you also share their ethics.
So you can do all this – and I know I know, you will tell me that you don’t have enough time to do ALL this, and that’s fine.  That’s why you’re going to start as early as you can, but if you only managed to do HALF of this then I guarantee you will get some really good visibility out of it.  And it might be that you just pick one thing you know you can do REALLY WELL, and focus just on that.  Such as a Veganuary PR stunt or just making sure you have an email going out every week during January to link in with the Veganuary campaign.  But, once you have done all this, we then come to our final step which is:
Step four: don’t stop just because Veganuary is over
Now this is my HUGE bugbear, and something I tell companies we consult with all the time – vegan is not just for January.  You know what it’s like, you hit the high street in January and all the restaurants are falling over themselves to show who’s got the best vegan meals, it’s like the world has gone vegan overnight – you go into the supermarkets and the chiller cabinet is STUFFED with all these amazing new vegan products – from Pizzas to vegan chocolate, all to sell to the people who’s new year resolution was to eat vegan for a month.  Then come the 1st of February and WOOSH – they’ve all gone!  That really good new vegan burger your favourite joint was selling and you had three times, you go in the next month and it’s ‘Oh, sorry sir, that was just for January’.  There’s nothing worse you can do to alienate those customers you’ve just amazed.
So look beyond January.  If you’ve launched a new product just for Veganuary, can you keep the momentum going and make sure it then becomes a regular product for the other 11 months?  That special team-up you did with another vegan business, some people might not be ready to buy in January but still want it when the time IS right to buy later in the year.  Don’t let all your hard work and relationship-building go to waste.
And, think about the people who engaged with you or made purchases during Veganuary but then seem to disappear.  OK, some may just do vegan for a single month, but it will have had an impact on them.  And they might go back to consuming animal products, but maybe now they are more open to considering alternatives?  Keep in touch with them, keep educating them, and maybe you’ll play a part in helping them further on their vegan journey.
Right, there’s been quite a lot of information there, so let me do a quick recap of the four steps:
Step one: Plan early.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t get involved if you’ve only just launched your business or didn’t find out about the campaign until it was half-way through January, but the earlier you plan the more you will get out of it.  Put a note in your diary to begin in October at the latest for the next one.
Step two: Create a Veganuary marketing plan.  Think about new products or offers you can offer.  Think about who you could collaborate with.  What PR stunt could you do?  Block out the time time to actually sit down with your notebook and plan all this.
Step three: Prepare everything you need BEFORE January.  Remember: a mediocre plan carried out well beats an amazing plan that never gets done.  So make sure you’ve got your website ready, your PR story written and all your graphics created so that you can hit the ground running January 1st.
And step four: Plan for BEYOND Veganuary.  Vegan and plant-based is not just for January.  Keep the momentum going, leverage this new visibility you’ve created with a new audience and help people continue on their plant-based journey.
And that’s it.  Now – it’s over to you.  Engaging with Veganuary is a great way to support the vegan cause because THEY are the people actually going out there and CREATING MORE VEGANS.  And isn’t that one of the main reasons you set up a vegan business in the first place, to help us all get to a vegan world all that much quicker?
If you do any great Veganuary promotions, please head over to the forums on the Vegan Business Tribe website and tell us all about it – and if all this ‘marketing stuff’ is new to you, and you should never be ashamed of not knowing about marketing if you have a business, it’s just a skill that you can learn like any other business skill, but if it is all new to you, then we have a full 25-module vegan marketing course on the website that WILL take you from knowing nothing about marketing to being a COMPLETE marketing ninja who can create a proper marketing plan for their business.  Just head to our courses page on www.vegan business to sign-up.
So, thank you so much for your time, and I’m talking directly to you here, because you’ve stayed with me right to the end.  And because of that I’m going to ask for one more favour now it’s just you and me:  wherever you are listening to this podcast, I would really appreciate if you can just tap the like button, or give us a 5-star rating if it lets you –  and also, if you subscribe to the podcast not only will you never miss an episode, but you are also letting the podcast platform know that we’re worth listening to.  Go on – fumble with your phone and do it now.  Unless you’re driving of course.  Then, don’t do that.  That’s brilliant – thank you, and I’ll see you on the next one.

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