Skip links

Are food companies doing enough for vegans?

Kirsty Yull, Account Executive, Ingredient Communications

Until recently, identifying as a vegan was often met with criticism and judgement. However, big changes have taken place, both in the industry and among consumers, and veganism has achieved a more mainstream status.

There are now over three and a half million people in the UK identifying as a vegan. Furthermore, the Veganuary campaign, where people pledge to try veganism for one month, has seen a huge increase in interest over the past few years, with 168,000 sign-ups up in 2018, compared to 3,300 in 2014. With sign-ups from 182 countries, it’s clear that veganism is reaching all corners of the globe.

So, veganism looks like it’s here to stay. But are food and ingredients companies doing enough to meet the needs of consumers who choose plant-based diets?


We conducted an online survey of 1,000 consumers (500 each in the UK and US) to observe this rising trend. Overall, 4% said they were vegan.

Participants were asked if they were satisfied with the choice of suitable food and beverage products available to them. Almost half (46%) of vegans surveyed said they were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the choice.

And this dissatisfaction was higher among American participants. Double the number of vegans in the US (28%) said they were very dissatisfied with options available compared to 14% in the UK.

This level of dissatisfaction perhaps has even more significance for the US. The survey revealed there were over double the number of vegans in the US (5.7%) compared to the UK (2.3%). Also, 90% of US vegetarians said they wanted to go vegan, as opposed to 33% in the UK.

Our research also indicated a significant number of flexitarians, those who don’t fully commit to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, but still want to reduce their animal product consumption. A third (30%) of meat-eaters wanted to reduce their meat consumption and two thirds of vegetarians say they are considering going vegan.

The rise in numbers of flexitarians and those moving towards a more plant-based lifestyle demonstrates the promising opportunities and increased demand for plant-based alternatives.

 Industry adaptation

Significant changes and innovations in the food industry have certainly taken place. Ten years ago, less than 1% of new food product launches in Europe were marketed as vegan – this figure is now at 7%. In 2010, the global plant-based milk market was worth $7.4 billion, and the figure is expected to increase to $16.3 billion this year.

High-profile brands are also extending their ranges. McDonald’s started offering a vegan burger in Finland and Sweden last year, and customers at Zizzi and Pizza Express can now order vegan pizza.

Sainsbury’s now offers a range of vegan alternatives to meat, controversially placed amongst meat products, following from the success of Beyond Burger in the US which outsold beef in some stores. And a very notable change took place last year at Guinness, which stopped using fish bladders in its brewing process after two and a half centuries.

A gap in the market

Significant numbers of consumers today are shifting towards plant-based diets, and the food and ingredient industry has taken note. The current level of dissatisfaction suggests that there is an opportunity for even more to be done, and rewards are guaranteed to come from this.