Hello and welcome to episode fifty-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 just before we start – if you are one of those people who always listen right to the end of these podcasts you will know that I always ask you for a favour at the end – so to mix up the format a little bit I’m actually going to ask you for a favour right at the start! We have seen Vegan Business Tribe go from strength to strength over these last twelve months, we’ve got such an amazing community of members and have been able to help so many vegan businesses – and the whole reason we’ve had such a good year is because of you. So many of you have been sharing our mission, or have introduced new people to this podcast or invited them to become a member over on the website which is why we’ve been growing so quickly. So first, if you have already shared what we do then thank you so much, but if you know someone else with a vegan business who you think should be listening to this – or maybe you’re in a local vegan Facebook group – then I would be forever in your debt if you would post a link to this podcast. But the second thing you can also do is leave us a 5-star review, especially if you are listening on iTunes which lets you write a full review – or give us a thumbs up, or a subscribe, or whatever your podcast platform lets you do. It only takes a few seconds, but it really shows that people think this podcast is worth listening to which means the platform will recommend us to more people. So if you haven’t done it yet, I’ll sit here and wait patiently for a second while you go off and give us a review or a like…
Ha ha – you really thought I was just going to pause for a few minutes, didn’t you?! But seriously, thank you so much if you have already shared our mission and if you haven’t got involved with Vegan Business Tribe yet, so if you’re a lurker and listen to this podcast every week but haven’t yet fully engaged with us or our amazing community of vegan business owners, then you are literally missing 90% of everything that goes on at Vegan Business Tribe. If you want to know more then just head over to the website, click on the big ‘join’ button on the homepages and you can choose to join as either a ‘fan’ for free to get access to our weekly content, or as a full member to also get access to our community and all our online events, our networking meet-ups, our courses and collections and so much more. So if you think that this next year is when YOU are going to take growing your vegan business seriously, come and join us so that we can see how we can help and support you too.
So this week I wanted to take a look at something that myself and Lisa get asked a lot about, which is our predictions for what’s going to be the next big thing in the vegan sector. Maybe you are thinking of setting up a new vegan business or you are looking at where you might take your company next but the vegan sector is the fastest-moving market I have ever been involved in. It’s why I like doing a weekly podcast because things change so quickly and we can keep you up to date. And it’s easy to think that the market is already saturated for vegan products – but if I go to my local supermarket I might have a choice of, say, four vegan pizzas. But if I look at the non-vegan pizzas I might find up to 15 different brands and options. You might think that the vegan ice cream market is getting oversaturated – but go count the amount of vegan ice creams in your local store compared to the non-vegan ones and see how much room there is in comparison. Or compare the number of companies making vegan burgers compared to the number of companies making them from dead animals. It’s still a tiny fraction. Do you think Mars come up with an idea for a new chocolate bar then scrap the idea because they think the market is over-saturated for chocolate? Of course they don’t. In fact, we know that some food company’s biggest research and development budgets over the last five years have been going into figuring out how to make a vegan version of their product, even though there are hundreds of other companies doing the same thing.
So saying that the vegan sector is becoming oversaturated is a bit like saying there are too many companies making shoes. All the projections show that the vegan food sector is going to keep growing as more people are interested in food that is better for the environment, the animals and quite often their health. What this does mean however, and this is something that you will have heard me say a lot, but if you DO make a vegan food product, then that product just being vegan is no longer a selling point. Being vegan no longer makes your product stand out. You have to innovate with your brand; you have to innovate with your mission and what your company’s purpose is; or you have to innovate with your product. For example when Mummy Meagz brought out the Vegan Creme Egg here in the UK, this raised their profile hugely – they couldn’t make enough of them from their kitchen in Humberside so had to get manufacturers involved. In fact we featured Willow Boyle and her mum in the very first interview Lisa did for her monthly feature in Vegan Food and Living Magazine. Or Ananda Foods who make a vegan version of that children’s classic The Waggon Wheel, a large round chocolate sweet with marshmallow and biscuit in the middle. They call it the Round-Up, and you can now even buy Ananda Food products in Selfridges. Again, a small, family-run business based who innovated. And it’s not just food – we are seeing companies really innovating and creating whole new markets for their vegan businesses.
So, if this is you and you are looking forward to the next twelve months and wondering what the next big trends are going to be in the vegan market, then buckle up! Because yes the sector will keep growing and yes more people will continue to turn vegan, but I didn’t want to just go with those obvious ones. So I’ve got ten of my biggest predictions for what the next big growth sectors are going to be and what we’re going to see next in the vegan market:
Prediction number one: More innovation in vegan food products.
This might be quite an obvious one to start with, but like that example of Mummy Meagz with the vegan creme egg, we’re going to see a lot more vegan food products that start filling in the spaces around what we’ve already got. We’ve already mastered the vegan sausage roll, but what about the vegan pork pie or vegan scotch egg? I listened to a presentation from supermarket buyers a couple of months ago and they said that whenever they launch a new food product, the emails start coming in straight away asking if they plan to do a vegan version. So if you’re thinking about launching a new vegan food product, then think about all the products in the world that are not yet vegan and see what you can do about that. Could you make vegan caviar and sell it exclusively to the kinds of shops that sell fish-egg caviar as a vegan alternative? Vegan boiled eggs, vegan fish fingers or vegan Battenberg cake. Even a vegan cheese and onion pasty. And you don’t necessarily have to try and sell and market the product yourself. You might create a vegan version of an everyday product and then approach a company that has an established animal-based version and an established customer base – and ask if they want to sell your product as their vegan version under their own brand? Even some butchers are now selling plant-based meats alongside their usual products, or local dairies are offering oat milk on their milk-rounds and might be happy to take your products on. This is what happened with Applewood Vegan Cheese that sold-out in supermarkets across the UK. Applewood don’t make their vegan cheese themselves, they are predominately a dairy manufacturer. But Heather Mills’ Vbites company approached them with an amazing vegan cheese that they had developed and offered to make it for them, but with Applewood branding it up as their own.
We’re also seeing vegan products reach places we haven’t seen before. I’m probably going to mention quite a few Vegan Business Tribe members in this episode, but our member Kasia has just launched VFree International Vegan Shop, an online vegan shop based here in the UK at vfreeshop.com
– and her best selling products is her range of veganised Polish foods that you will struggle to find anywhere else. So look out for those food and drink products that don’t yet have a vegan version and see if you can dominate the market for, say, vegan cheese and onion pasties before someone else does. And that leads us to…
Prediction number two: Diversity of ingredients.
This is something we’re already seeing, and we are definitely going to see a lot more of it – especially more diversity in protein sources. And that’s because a lot of people first bought into the idea of veganism as a way to be more environmentally conscious, especially those non-vegan consumers who are introducing more and more plant-based foods into their diets as a way to be more sustainable. But if food products are made with ingredients that have been grown on the other side of the world, then those who are vegan for the environment and not the animals can be put off by that. Which is why we’re seeing a lot of companies looking at new alternative ingredients to make their product out of, such as pea protein – which isn’t anywhere near as awful as it may sound, in fact it’s actually really versatile and you can grow peas locally. Or last month I met a US company called Hope and Sesame, who are making plant milk out of the waste product that is left over from tahini production. Even the humble potato is taking on a whole new lease of life as potatoes milk hits the supermarket shelves. And we need more of this sustainability thinking in food manufacturing. Brazil is the world’s largest producer of soy, but the worlds biggest demand comes from the EU and China. Now, unfortunately, the majority of that demand is as animal feed and for bio-fule. But the humble pea and potato can be produced much closer to where the product is going to be sold and as awareness of where our food comes from increases, along with the impact it has on the communities and the environment where it’s being produced, the world is looking at lots of exciting alternatives to the soy bean. So if you have one, now is the time to be talking to your local food manufacturers!
Prediction number three: more vegan products for children
There are various statistics about what per cent of the population are vegan, and most agree it’s somewhere between 3 to 5%. But a recent poll commissioned by the BBC found that in children aged five to sixteen, 8% are already following a vegan diet but 15% said they would like to be vegan. That’s 15% who would be vegan if they were in charge of their own food choices. That’s 15% of children putting pressure on their parents, their schools, their families and their friends to choose vegan products. Now, that’s not just a lot of potential customers but it’s also an opportunity for a lot of education. There are so many posts in vegan Facebook groups from vegan parents who have been told to give their children meat and dairy. Even doctors telling parents they have to give their children dairy milk or it will badly impact their growth. And this sort of stuff is scary for parents: we’ve had a lifetime of being told that we need meat and dairy in our diets to be healthy, especially as growing children. So vegan products aimed at children that also aim to educate the parents, and even health professionals, have got a big future as this trend continues to grow. Can you create a product that gives all the calcium or iron a child needs in their diet but also educates the parents that it’s the actual nutrient the child needs, and the source of that nutrient doesn’t matter? Kale and spinach have more calcium than dairy milk and is better for you too. But we have to acknowledge that although there are far better sources of nutrients like calcium, getting young children to eat kale if they have previously been raised on dairy isn’t easy – so there’s going to be a big market for vegan products that are specifically designed to be attractive to kids. In fact, I’d say that market is already there but it’s really under-served. Again, chocolate companies like MooFree or fruit companies like Bear Nibbles have made big strides into the children’s snack market; Alpro now have a follow-on soya milk for toddlers that even has B12 included. And we saw Quorn launch their vegan Raorsome dinosaurs nuggets – so expect to see lots more companies catching up with the vegan children trend.
But it’s not just food where there are plenty of opportunities. We’ve got some brilliant vegan children’s groups like Dana Burton’s ‘Vegan Kids’ organisation that aims to bring together vegan children and is also running the vegan kids festival. We’ve got The Vegan Society setting up a new Education Network, headed up by the amazing Laura Chepner who has spent her career helping schools better engage and cater for vegan children. The BBCs children’s channel CBBC now has their own vegan cooking show hosted by twelve-year-old cook and vegan activist Omari McQueen. I often say that getting to a vegan world will be a generational journey, and it’s only going to take a couple of generations to get there. 10% of children now eating vegan will become 30% in no time at all. When I last went to the supermarket wearing my Vegan Tribe hoodie from Viva La Vegan, I was high-fived by a six-year-old shopping with his mum because I was vegan.
So children is definitely one market that we’re going to see huge growth in, not just food but also children’s activities around veganism, such as festivals and camps. But the same will apply at the other end of the age spectrum which brings us to…
Prediction number four: more support and products aimed at vegans in care.
More and more people going into care are vegan, or want vegan options. Maybe they were vegan pioneers – and for those of you who say we will never reach a vegan world, just take a look at how far we’ve come in our own lifetimes. Or maybe they were influenced by their grandchildren, but there are plenty of people in their 70s, 80s, or even older, who are wanting to eat vegan and a lot of care providers don’t know how to cater for them. And again, just as with the children’s market, that’s going to keep growing for as long as people keep getting older and the number of vegans in later life continues to grow. So you might want to think about how you can provide vegan services to the care sector and people coming to veganism in later life.
Prediction number five: more vegan experiences.
Now if you join Vegan Business Tribe and you go and look at the member’s directory, you will be surprised how many members we have in the travel category. Vegan Adventure Holidays founded by Emma Fry, Green Earth Travel founded by Donna Zeigfinger, we’ve even got JC De Klerk’s Air Safaris 269 which has just completed its first vegan safari trip in Namibia. But what a lot of these companies find is that their customer base is not just vegans. A lot of people want to try out veganism combined with an experience such as travelling. Lisa and I sometimes have a weekend away at our local vegan bed and breakfast, Peasholm Park Vegan B&B in Scarborough which is run by our good friends Helen and Carl – and the last time we were there less than half of the people we shared the breakfast room with were actually vegan. In fact, at the next table was a retired butcher and his wife who had been told by their doctor that they needed to cut down on the amount of meat they were eating, so they booked into a vegan B&B to find out what exactly vegans ate! And they left with Lisa’s recommendations of which cook-books they should buy and to go look up Dr Michael Greger.
And again, we’re going to see more vegan tourists – and I don’t mean just physical tourists going on holiday, but people who want to try-on veganism without fully going vegan just yet. People who want to book on vegan cooking courses, or to learn more about vegan diets. And I think we’re going to see this extend beyond people wanting to try vegan food to people wanting to try-on some vegan ethics too. At Vegan Camp Out this year, Lisa and I spoke to a lot of people in the queue who were not vegan but were somewhere on that journey – and they had come to listen to some of the activists, and try out some of the food fully expecting that it was going to change their perception of veganism. So we’re going to start to see experience packages where people can not just go on holiday as a vegan, but also do something more ethical with their time, such as staying on an animal sanctuary, living vegan for the weekend and helping out with the animals while paying for the privilege.
Prediction number six: vegan petcare hits the mainstream
Now I use the term ‘petcare’ because that’s what the industry sector is known as, but many vegans prefer the phrase ‘companion animals’ to describe the animals that we live alongside. But many of the vegan petfoods are currently available are made by small independent companies, but I know that many of the big petcare companies are working on vegan petfood ranges and we’ll soon see those on the shelves in the supermarkets too – although if you are looking for vegan pet food right now, you have to go no further than Vegan Busines Tribe member Steve Hutchins who is the founder of DoGood vegan dog food. And the reason this sector is going to grow is because the biggest market for meat, after human consumption, is household dogs and cats. And do you remember when people used to think that humans couldn’t live healthily on vegan diets and we prove them wrong every day by annoyingly continuing to be alive? Well many people currently think the same about animals. So again, a large part of succeeding in the petfood market will be educating and reassuring humans that their fellow animals can thrive on a plant-based diet. And just like with children, a lot of people are looking to transition animals over to plant-based that haven’t been raised vegan since birth so there’s a lot of opportunities for like-for-like wet petfood products that mimic the current animal meat-based products.
But it’s not just the main meals that animal eats, there are already plenty of treats you can buy a vegan dog, such as those made by Herbipaws or Stripes for Dogs – and that market is going to keep growing. So if you have an idea for a vegan animal product, now is the time to start taking that seriously because we’re going to see the big established non-vegan companies getting in on the action soon!
Prediction number seven: Cultured meat on supermarket shelves
Now, this is a complicated sector to talk about. Meat made in a laboratory is still meat, and it still currently needs cells from animals to grow. In fact, some processes use something called bovine serum which is cells extracted from unborn fetuses. But I wanted to include it because it’s going to have an impact on the sector and there is currently too much money being put into lab-grown meat for it not to soon start delivering commercial products. And Derek Sarno, who is the head of plant-based at Tesco supermarkets said he thinks we’ll see it on supermarket shelves in the next five years. For many vegans, the idea of lab-grown meat is still off-putting – you can’t claim it’s vegan because it’s grown from animal cells but for others, it’s the holy grail of food manufacturing – and it’s coming. And in some ways it could allow many people to sidestep veganism entirely, instead of vast factory farms you will see vastly reduced numbers of livestock being kept to extract cells from – and it may be to the meat industry what vaping has been to the tobacco industry – something that is seen as a way to produce meat without the environmental impact. So again, it’s not something I can see a lot of ethical vegans wanting to buy, but it’s definitely something that’s on the horizon. Which leads to…
Prediction number eight: Price parity
I mentioned Tescos supermarket a moment ago, and if you live in the UK you will have seen that Tescos have slashed the prices of their own-brand Plant Chef products to match, or in many cases be cheaper, than meat and animal products. We’ve seen the Co-op do the same with their Gro (and that’s G-R-O) vegan range. Co-op have made a seven-figure investment and reduced the price of their vegan products by as much as 50% to bring them into line with their non-vegan products. And we’re going to see more of this. There are a number of reasons why vegan processed products are more expensive than meat – and it’s not usually that the vegan products ARE actually expensive, it’s that meat is too cheap. Meat and dairy production receives huge subsidies from governments around the world, to the point where sometimes we’ve had the ridiculous situation where it cost farmers less to dump milk than to sell it. So the price of animal products is artificially held low. The second reason why processed vegan products are often more expensive is because it hasn’t had the same economies of scale (so when there’s low demand for a product, then the cost per unit is higher to make) until now. We’ve seen demand for vegan products hit the mainstream, and because of this consumers are getting far more price options. If I want I can spend £2 on a carton of plant milk, or I can spend 55p. I can spend £3.50 on four vegan sausages, or I can spend £1.45 on six. And there’s room at both ends of the price scale. Many food companies have said to me over the last few years that ‘vegan attracts a premium’ – ie they simply charge more for vegan products because they can. But that’s changing, and as the available market widens, then competition increases and we’ll see more and more vegan products positioning themselves on price. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to race to the bottom to be the cheapest – because it also means there will be more of a market for premium plant-based products too – but you’ll have to justify that premium price: with the ingredients, with your branding or with your mission. But a product just being vegan will no longer be justified for charging more than non-vegan products.
Prediction number nine: more established brands going vegan
Now this will be news to no one, we’ve all seen the Vegan Galaxy Bar and even car companies like Tesla offering vegan interiors, but we’re going to see more and more traditionally non-vegan companies racing to embrace vegan products. The big vegan launches will keep coming as non-vegan companies try to win back the customers they have been losing, especially the younger demographics. All the main supermarkets now have their own vegan in-house brands, and we’re even seeing brands like Pret launching vegan-only versions of their cafes and coffee houses. Burger King even recently trialled a meat-free version of their restaurant in Cologne, Germany and have publically committed to working towards a 50% plant-based menu. Partly, these brands going vegan is them following an industry trend, and it’s easy to look at these companies cynically – but what I’ve found from dealing and consulting with a number of them is that often, you have one or two people in that organisation who the ones making all the noise that the company needs to change. They are the champions who actually WANT their organisations to embrace plant-based in a meaningful way, and if I’m being honest they make themselves a right royal pain in the backside for their managers above them. And in all the big companies who we love to hate as ethical vegans (and not without good reasons), you will likely find someone who has decided to try and change the system from within. We WILL likely get one of the big fast food (or QSR companies) announcing that they are ditching meat entirely in the next few years, and it will be interesting to see who goes first. We WILL see companies launching more all-vegan branches of their shops and restaurants – and not just for Veganuary. And the meat production industry itself will be forced to change in return. Rob Percival who is the Head of Food Policy at the Soil Association and author of ‘The Meat Paradox’ recently tweeted, “I spent the day with a major chicken business discussing their 2030 sustainability strategy. “We think we probably need to stop selling dead animals,” they told me. “One way or another, it feels like the future is kill-free.” Extraordinary.“
So again, this means as vegan companies we can’t just rest on our laurels. All the good work we have been doing IS changing the industry, and we’ve only got a short window where our ethics is going to be a big enough unique selling point to separate us from the huge global companies, which leads me to my final prediction:
Prediction number ten: more vegan business on a mission
So we know that just selling a vegan product or a service is no longer a unique selling point, but for now – the REASON we’re selling a vegan product is. And the companies who are bringing that to the front of their businesses are making huge leaps right now. Take a look at Vegan Fried Chicken, or VFC, started by Adam Lyons and Veganuary founder Matthew Glover in 2020, and in less than a year are now in Tesco Supermarkets and selling internationally into the US. VFC banned the use of the phrase plant-based, and put activism at the heart of their extremely cool brand. Just go take a look at their social media accounts for some of the best public put-downs of anti-vegan trolls you will ever see.
Again, within our own members at Vegan Business Tribe, those companies who have pinned their vegan ethics to their chests have seen exceptional things happen. One of our videographers, Damian Sciberras from Short Stop Video, even found himself being taken on as the cameraman for vegan activist Joey Carbstrong after he started publically talking about his vegan ethics. Kayleigh and Lee from Kakadu Creative started talking about the activism work they do (very publically on LinkedIn) to show that they don’t just make websites – and that’s led to the types of contacts they have been trying to talk to for ages actually approaching them to talk about doing work.
We need to remember, that even with their internal champions trying to change the companies from within, as long as it’s meat and dairy manufacturers leading the plant-based marketplace with their vegan alternatives, then they will stay just that: alternatives. A way for these companies to retain customers without having to give up their main animal-based products. But a lot of people are taking note of what Adam and Matthew have achieved with VFC and their unapologetically vegan message, and it’s showing the rest of us that you can be successful by embracing the ethical vegan mission with your company.
So that’s my top ten predictions of what’s going to happen in the vegan sector – and I know that some are already happening from conversations I’ve been privy to behind the scenes, others from listening to industry talk, but Vegan Business Tribe is always a two-way conversation between you and me, so if you have observed your own trends or have your own predictions and want to put them forwards then drop us an email to tell me! But before we finish, let’s just have a round-up of those top ten predictions again in a bullet-point list:
Prediction number one: More innovation in vegan food products as we start filling in the spaces around what we’ve already got.
Prediction number two: More diversity and sustainability ingredients. Let’s see pea protein and the humble potato become our new hero!
Prediction number three: more vegan products for children. And a big part of that will be education for parents too.
Prediction number four: more support needed for vegans in care as more people turn vegan in their old age.
Prediction number five: more vegan experiences, from holidays to letting non-vegans find out more about the vegan lifestyle and paying for the privilege.
Prediction number six: veganism becomes mainstream in the petcare sector; remember there are an estimated 12 and a half million dogs in the UK alone!
Prediction number seven: Cultured meat – it’s not vegan, but like the concept or not it’s coming and it will potentially give a lot of people an excuse to sidestep veganism entirely.
Prediction number eight: Price parity – vegan food products coming in at the same retail price as non-vegan food. But that doesn’t mean you need to race to the bottom, it will give plenty of opportunities to have a truly premium product too if you can prove it’s worth it.
Prediction number nine: more established brands going vegan – and you don’t need to be Nostradamus or Old Mother Shipton to see this one coming! We’ll see even more big vegan launches but also companies moving beyond just testing out having vegan products and truly embracing the sector in a more meaningful way as customers demand it and change happens from within.
And prediction number ten: more vegan business on a mission. VFC and others are leading the way in showing us that we can be activism-based in our businesses and still find an audience, even with non-vegans.
So that’s it!
As I said at the start of this session, if you enjoyed this episode or found it really useful, then please share this podcast with your own contacts who might find it useful also. And finally, if you’re not already a member of Vegan Business Tribe (and I know there are so many lurkers out there who haven’t introduced themselves yet) then head over to the website where you can see all the great stuff you get as being part of Vegan Business Tribe, including an intro 121 with myself and Lisa on Zoom so we can find out more about your vegan business. And it’s the support of our members that means we can keep recording this podcast, and keep putting out all our content every week and championing the vegan business scene around the world.
Thank you so much for giving up your time to listen, we’re always blown away by how many people are downloading this podcast now, and I will see you on the next one!