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048 - Get your business ready for Veganuary

How your business can make the most of the Veganuary campaign. Veganuary challenges people to eat vegan for the 31 days of January, and this year well over half a million people from over 200 countries signed up to the challenge. That’s only the people who officially registered for the challenge through the website though. Research shows that ten times more people actually participated without officially registering.

As vegan businesses, we should always get behind any campaign that is designed to bring more people over to the plant side, but Veganuary also creates a unique buying environment for your business: people who would at other times of the year have no interest in vegan products and services are now on the lookout for all things vegan. David takes a look at how your company can get involved with the Veganuary (both officially and unofficially) to not just back the campaign but also increase the sales and visibility of your vegan business during that time.

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Full episode transcript

Hello and welcome to episode forty-eight of The Vegan Business Tribe Podcast with myself David Pannell, co-founder of Vegan Business Tribe.  And 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 as you know I like to give a shout out to our Vegan Business Tribe members whenever I can – but this week we got to actually meet one of our members in person because my Vegan Business Tribe co-founder Lisa was asked to cut the ribbon on a new vegan shop that was just opened by our VBT member, Samantha Barker from Clever Cotton.  And Lisa was overjoyed to open the shop which is a lovely unit shaped like a large beach hut in the seaside town of Blyth in the North East of the UK, and Sam is selling both her hand-made vegan knitwear using yarn made from cotton and lots of other vegan gifts – many of them actually made by other Vegan Business Tribe members such as bath bombs from Rock Chocs, greetings cards from Little Green Pigeon and skincare products from Happy Carrot Skincare.  Lisa gave a really moving speech before she cut the ribbon which was also live-streamed on Clever Cotton’s Instagram page, because Sam has been through a lot to get that shop open and we were really proud that we could be there supporting her on the big day.  And if you want to see the photos from the champagne opening of Clever Cotton, then we’ve uploaded them to the Vegan Business Tribe website so go check them out there.
 
And that’s what it means to be part of a community – so many of our Vegan Business Tribe members have had a hand in getting Samantha to this point, even if that’s just giving moral support in our Community Hub or testing out products for her.  And Lisa also came away with an amazing pink hand-knitted hat that we couldn’t help but buy – just in time for winter here in the UK.  And we’d love YOU to be part of that community as well, because as I always say – if you only listen to this podcast every week and you’re not a member of Vegan Busines Tribe then you are genuinely missing out on 90% of everything we do in supporting vegan businesses.  And as a member, which is only £12.99 a month, not only are you getting access to myself and Lisa, all our online events, our courses and videos and our amazing community of vegan business owners – just like Sam from Clever Cotton – but your monthly membership also means we can keep producing this podcast every week, keep putting out all the FREE content that we also produce every week and keep championing vegan business around the globe.  So if you want to know more, go take a look at the website and click the big ‘join’ button on the homepage and we’d love to set up that first 1-2-1 with you to find out more about your business.
 
OK, so I mentioned that we’re just heading into winter here in the UK, which means that we’re now on that last leg of the year.   Many businesses ramp up for Christmas, especially if you sell stuff like gifts or food, but if you are a vegan business then there’s something else that you really need to be getting ready for now – and that’s Veganuary. Now, Veganuary started as a movement in the UK, challenging people to go vegan for the 31 days of January – but it has since grown to a global campaign and registered charity.  In the campaign’s first year in 2014, about 3 thousand non-vegans signed up for the challenge.  This year in 2021, well over half a million people from over 200 countries signed up officially to eat vegan for a month.  And that’s only the people who officially registered for the challenge through the website.  Research shows that ten times more people actually participated without registering, meaning that we’re probably looking at over 5 million people who gave vegan a try for January this year.  And the stats go up every year.
 
What is wonderful about Veganuary however is that in the exit survey this year, 40% who signed up for the challenge said they planned to stay vegan and many more said they planned to reduce animal products in their diet by at least half.  Veganuary truly is a trigger point for many consumers, it gives them a focal point to make a change and I know lots of people who turned vegan after doing Veganuary – OR doing Veganuary played a big part in their plant-based journey.  In fact, in the UK 1 in 20 – so that’s 5% of the population – tried being vegan during January this year.  And that’s from official YouGov data.  8% of 18-24 year olds participated in the challenge.  And it’s not just the UK who are taking up the Veganuary challenge in big numbers – Veganuary run official targetted campaigns in the US, Germany and Latin America but many other countries such as Australia also have a large Veganuary following.
 
So, as vegan businesses, we should be backing Veganuary.  First, the campaign is responsible for bringing so many people over to the plant-side and as vegans ourselves we want to get behind that.  For many of us, the reason we started a vegan business in the first place was to help create more vegans.  But second, Veganuary creates a unique buying environment.  We’ve got all these people open to vegan products for the month meaning there’s a lot of focus on the sector.  You can’t walk down a high street here in the UK during January without falling over pavement boards outside chain restaurants promoting their vegan options.  This year, the number of people ordering vegan pizza in Pizza Hut during January doubled.  Meatless Farm saw their sales increase by 111%.  Squeaky Bean were up 222%.  And vegan Tofu brand Cauldron saw their Instagram engagement increase by a factor of 12 during Veganuary and there was a 41% increase in visits to their website too.  All this just shows the mainstream interest that the movement creates each year, at no other time do you get such a focussed buying environment for vegan products by non-vegans.  It’s why the big chain food stores and supermarkets all launch new vegan ranges in January – and it comes at a perfect time for them because they have just cleared out the chillers of all the Christmas products and need something else to replace them with.
 
But it’s not just food companies who see an uplift during the Veganuary challenge.  Last January, many of the big accountancy firms like Price Waterhouse Cooper and Ernst & Young promoted the Veganuary challenge to their workforces, meaning it’s the perfect time to highlight the other sides of veganism that are not just linked to food products.  And the reason these huge global companies promote the challenge is because veganism has become a short-hand term for being environmentally responsible.  So call it greenwashing if you like: these companies saying they are environmentally conscious because they are encouraging their employees to take the Veganuary challenge – and there’s some truth to that.  But if doing this is actively prompting more people to try a vegan diet, then we’ll take that I think. Because looking at the reasons people give for signing up to Veganaury, I was surprised.  In 2021, 46% of people who signed up said they did so for the animals.  Only 22% said health and 21% said for environmental reasons – and that means that the ethical message IS getting through and not only is it getting through, but it’s also becoming one of the biggest reasons people are now looking at going vegan.
 
And that is truly amazing, it just shows how far veganism has come.  We don’t need to hide the ethical message completely away behind health and environmental messages as we’ve had to do in the past.  And creating new vegans is great, like I said, it’s why we’re all here, BUT your goal for getting your business involved in Veganuary shouldn’t be JUST to help create more vegans.  You should use this unique focus and acceptance of veganism to create more customers too.  Why?  Because having a vegan business is a form of activism.  And I open this podcast every week by saying it’s not enough just to have a vegan business, you need to have a SUCCESSFUL vegan business.  You need to be growing your business and making sales and finding new customers – and actually MAKING MONEY and paying yourself and your staff a living wage – if you want to make a real impact with your vegan business.  And leveraging all this interest around Veganuary every year is the perfect opportunity to do just that.
 
Veganuary is the time when people who would not normally connect with the vegan message or vegan products and services are all of a sudden open to doing so.  Or if they are not themselves, they know others who are doing the challenge and so are open to sharing your message with them.  And it’s easy to get caught up in the campaigning side of Veganuary, and just doing activity to promote the campaign without really promoting yourself – but you can, and should, do both.  Remember, as a vegan business YOU campaign all year round, even if you are not leading with a vegan message.  And the influx of new interest you can get by leveraging the Veganuary campaign means you can increase your sales during this time, which will help you keep that good work going well after the campaign has finished.
 
If you’re listening to this podcast as it goes out then you’ve got about two and a half months to get ready for Veganuary, which isn’t long.  Lisa and I, we talk to a lot of the large food companies and let me tell you they were getting ready for Veganuary months ago.  So the first thing you should do is start planning NOW.  If your company is planning to do something for Veganuary then you need to have it all finished and wrapped up ready to go by early December.  If you’re going to have a weekly or even daily email going out during Veganuary, don’t think you’ll just write them over Christmas.  There are graphics you’ll need to prepare, emails to build in MailChimp, you might need to create landing pages.  All these things take time and energy and, unless you like to escape from your family, then Christmas isn’t the time to be scheduling in things like that.  You’ll also likely want to start telling your customers and followers that you’re getting involved in Veganuary before the Christmas break, so set yourself the goal of having everything wrapped up and ready to go in December.  Trust me, you’ll thank me for it.
 
So what can you actually do to leverage the campaign for your business?
 
Well, first of all – use the Veganuary logo on everything you do during January.  We’ve seen Facebook ads get 30% more clicks by just putting the Veganuary logo on the advert.  And this is really a win / win for both your business and the Veganuary campaign, which is why they give you full permission to use their logo without having to contact them.  They actively encourage it, and make all the files and guidelines available to download on their website. The more companies that use the logo, the more visibility the campaign gets.  But remember, all these people taking on the Veganuary challenge are not vegans and don’t always know which products are vegan and which are not, so they really appreciate being signposted during the month.  Seeing your company using the Veganuary logo means they know they are safe to buy your product.  But also, you have the share factor.  You have the friends and families of people who are doing Veganuary, and if they see something with the logo on they are likely to forward it on.
 
And as I said, Veganuary are great for providing all their logos, colour references and templates free to download from their website – they WANT you to use their brand.  They also provide lots of guides on how to use it correctly.  And there are lots of places you can use it!  You can put it on the obvious places like your social media, or if you have a physical shop then get it printed out and put it in your window or on a banner in your office.  If you’re posting out products then get some temporary labels printed and stick them on your packaging in the run-up to the campaign – but also think about what else people are going to be seeing from your business.  Put the logo on your email footer with a link to the challenge sign-up page.  Put it on your invoices or purchase orders – you’ve got a legitimate two or three-month window where you can use the campaign logo so make sure you give it as much visibility as you can.
 
Next, tie your business into all the online activity that always goes on around Veganuary.  And the great thing about this is that, again, the Veganuary team want you to do this and look out for posts that are using the Veganuary hashtag so they can share it too.  And there’s a new hashtag for each year, so next Veganuary will be ‘hashtag veganuary2022’ – but ‘hashtag veganuary’ will also be in circulation also.  And the Veganuary team DO repost and share content, especially if there’s a really good graphic attached to it or it’s talking about something really positive or remarkable.  You might well find your company shared to their hundreds of thousands of followers in the same breath as someone like Pizza Hut if you come up with a really good post.  So start to plan NOW what those posts might be.  What kind of images do you need to create that will catch their eye and get-reshared?  Can you print out a big cardboard Veganuarly logo and get your team to hold it in the office?  Use the official hashtag, tag in the Veganuary team and see if they will reshare it.  If you sell a product, can you lay your products out to spell out the word ‘veganuary’ and share photos of that during the campaign?  It’s these positive, creative and visual posts that the Veganuary team will pick up and share with their own audiences, so start planning and creating them now so they are ready to go in the first few days of the campaign – whilst everyone else is still trying to think about what to post!
 
And there are other more official ways that you can get your company involved with the campaign too. Veganuary have a special offers page on their website, and whereas it’s usually the big high street brands that get featured on here, some smaller brands do manage to get promoted on here too – especially if you can provide a good graphic and an interesting promotion.  You do need to contact Veganuary at least a month before the campaign starts though if you want to try and get on this page, and this year their deadline for submitting special offers is the 6th December.  But even if you don’t make it onto this special offer page, they might re-share your social post offering a special offer, again, if you can make it positive, related to the campaign and visually creative.  You can also send a press release through to their team, and again they do share stories because they are always looking for good content.  And it’s worth mentioning that the Veganuary team ARE looking for content all year-round, not just during January.  So if you have a follow-on impact story about how your company got involved with the campaign, or what it’s planning to do next year, then write it up into a press release and send it through to them.
 
Add it’s important to remember that Veganuary isn’t just for food companies to get involved with.  If you are a service company, especially if you are selling to non-vegans, then use it as an opportunity to engage and build a relationship with your customers through your ethics.  No one will be put off by this because everyone loves buying from ethical companies, and leveraging your involvement with the Veganuary campaign shows that you are a company with ethics.  Challenge your customers to take up the Veganuary challenge themselves, challenge your suppliers and any other company you do business with and give them the official link to register for the challenge, which is veganuary.com/try-vegan
 
If you work within an organisation then encourage them to take up the Veganuary workplace challenge.  Again, Veganuary have lots of posters, email templates and a step-by-step guide to get your workplace to take on the challenge together.  Organise a staff night out for people taking part and introduce them to some of your favourite vegan places to eat.  Have a bake-off for the best vegan cake.  And most importantly, share that you are doing all this with your customers and followers.  Send out a weekly email update with what your team have been doing for Veganuary to increase your visibility with your audience.
 
You can also get a bit more creative and carry out a Veganuary PR stunt or do a high-profile collaboration.  And I’ve been talking a lot recently about getting out from behind your keyboard with your company’s marketing and actually doing something that will get you noticed.  Veganuary is the PERFECT time to do that because it will be amplified by everything else that’s going on.  Take a look at what some of the high street brands have done: last year Greggs the bakery and Iceland supermarket came together to launch a foot-long vegan sausage roll during Veganuary.  The meat-replacement company THIS! launched a call centre staffed by comedians to help people with the temptation of eating meat during Veganuary.  Just Eat turned London’s iconic Beefeaters into ‘Leaf Eaters’ to deliver their orders in celebration of Veganuary – they even replaced their traditional red uniforms with green ones.  What stunt can you do that will bring a little bit of fun and visibility, and also make Veganuary themselves more likely to share your story?  Even if you and your team are just going to paint yourself in green bodypaint for the day, Veganurary is the one time when you have a really open channel of communication to a wide new audience, so do something interesting with that channel.
 
And finally, remember that Veganuary isn’t just for vegans and it’s not just for January either.  Make sure you have some way to capture the details of these people who have this new interest in vegan products so you can continue to market and sell to them after the campaign has finished.  93% of those who took on the Veganuary challenge this year but who said they were not committed to staying vegan, said they WERE very likely to try vegan and vegan products again.  So aim to get these people onto your mailing list or to follow you on social media so you can keep reminding them how much they loved your product when they tried it in Veganuary.  And Veganuary itself isn’t just going to be confined to January anymore. In 2022, Veganuary are introducing mini-campaigns throughout the year, with Choose Chicken-Free Week in April, Fish-Free Week in June, Plant-Based BBQ week in July and Dairy-Free Week in August which you can also get involved with.
 
So are you all fired up now to get your vegan business involved with Veganuary?!  Brilliant.  How about you set up a brainstorming session either with your team or other vegan business owners and ask the question: not just how can we give Veganuary some exposure, but how can we use the campaign and the huge spotlight that’s going to be on ‘vegan’ to increase our own exposure as vegan businesses?  How can we both promote the campaign and our own businesses at the same time?  In fact, some of our Vegan Business Tribe members organised just such a Veganuary brainstorming session together last month and came up with some great collaborative ideas.
 
OK, so let’s wrap up by having a quick recap of what we’ve just spoken about, on how your company can get ready for, and leverage, Veganuary.
 
  1. It’s never too early to start planning for Veganuary.  If you leave it until the campaign starts then you are too late.  You need to put some thought into what kind of graphics you can create that will get shared, and if you want to submit anything to the campaign organisers then you need to have done that before the end of November.
  2. Veganuary started in the UK, but it’s really picking up momentum in other regions too.  This year people in over 200 countries signed up through the website and the charity themselves are now running campaigns outside of the UK – so no matter what country you are in, you should get some recognition of the campaign.  If not – then it’s your opportunity to bring it to your region!
  3. Veganuary is the time when people who are not usually on the lookout for vegan products will be.  So time a new product launch to coincide with the campaign or make sure that you are doing more to make your company and products visible during this time.
  4. Go to the Veganuary website and follow the links to get their official logos and branding guidelines.  They want you to use their brand, so don’t just put the logo on your products, put it in your window, on your social posts and on your email footer with a link to the official sign-up page.
  5. Consider coming up with a special offer for people during the month and submit it to Veganuary to consider for their special offers page. Even if you don’t get on their page, you might get it shared on their social media.
  6. With all this focus, Veganuary is the perfect time to try out a stunt or get more creative with a campaign.  And the more visual and creative the stunt the more likely Veganuary themselves are to share it if you make sure you use the campaign hashtags and tag the Veganuary page in when you post it.
  7. If you work in a larger company, get your HR department to back the Veganuary workplace challenge.  Take a lead on it as the office vegan and make sure as many people as possible get to try vegan food in the month.  Also, get your suppliers and customers involved and use it as an opportunity to showcase your company’s ethics.
  8. Find other vegan businesses to collaborate with, or to have brainstorming sessions with. Just like some of our Vegan Business Tribe members have.
 
And that’s it.  So, I really hope you consider your business getting involved in the Veganuary campaign.  Not only can you use it to get in front of a huge new audience who are not usually interested in vegan products and services, but the campaign truly does make a difference.  It’s estimated that the campaign has saved the lives of three and a half million animals and so many people cite Veganuary as being a big stepping stone on their way to becoming vegan so we should all get behind the campaign.
 
And as I said, if you want to connect with other vegan business owners to see what ideas you can come up with together, then just go take a look at our website at veganbusinesstribe.com to meet them.  You will not believe the amazing, supportive community we have and you can make really crucial link-ups with other business owners and professionals that share your ethics. But if you’re also struggling with your business and need some support, then we’ve got online courses specifically written for vegan businesses, member-only content and our live online events, such as our networking meet-ups and business clinics with myself and Lisa – and anything else we can think of creating to help more vegan businesses be successful.  And membership is only £12.99 a month – I mean, you probably spend more than that a month if you buy a cup of coffee once a week from your local coffee shop, but if you really want to support what we’re doing and help our mission, then you can also become one of our patrons for £99 a month to give that extra bit of financial support to help us on our mission to skill-up vegan businesses worldwide and keep Lisa and I in porridge and chick-peas.
 
So thank you for listening, I love the fact that so many people listen every week and I really appreciate you giving up your time.  If you can, I would love you to give this podcast a 5-star review, or a thumbs-up, or just share it with any other vegan business who you think might be interested in getting involved with Veganuary, and I will see you on the next one!

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