Do you know your turkey from your tofurkey, and your veggie balls from your chicken nuggets? If so, you may be aware that the UK is now leading the charge for vegan food launches in the world. Indeed, the appetite for vegan food companies in the UK has grown over the past few years. Today, it is estimated that as many as 1.5 million Brits identify as vegan –- an increase of 40%. You probably already have a view on where you stand when it comes to cutting back on meat?
A recent Mintel report highlights that this trend is being driven not only by vegans, but also flexitarians – those who enjoy a mostly plant-based diet with occasional meat consumption. Accordingly, one in three British meat-eaters has reduced their meat intake in the previous six months.
That’s not all, as recent as 2018, Mintel estimates that over half of all new products entering the food market were meat-free, proving the growing demand for meatless alternatives.
Why the rise in veganism?
It’s worth noting that there’s a number of factors that have spearheaded this consumer change.
These include a boom in conscious consumerism and events such as ‘Veganuary’, bringing plant-based living to the fore, along with celebrity endorsement from stars like Miley Cyrus and Simon Cowell.
Then of course, there are animal welfare issues, which have long been a focus of vegans.
But increasingly, the health benefits of a plant-based diet and growing awareness around sustainable food and farming, as well as the link between global warming and a meat-based diet, have really pushed consumers to think carefully about the food choices they make.
All of these trends can today be seen in the agri food industry.
In this feature, we’ll take a look at six of the leading agri food UK companies, and their contribution to the ever-growing vegan foods list.
What is Agri food in the vegan market?
Before we get started, it’s important to be clear about what we mean by ‘agri food’. This is a term used to describe the production of food agriculturally, as opposed to say fishing or hunting. It’s also an extremely valuable sector in our economy, which contributes over £120 billion (9.4 per cent) to the national GDP at last count.
Since plant-based food alternatives are popular with both meat-eaters and vegans alike, many UK food manufactures have joined the meat-free revolution. Here we take a look at six of them.
When you think of meat-free foods, Quorn is a name that comes to mind. The market leader in its category is also one of the most famous agri food products in the UK, with good reason.
Tracing its roots back to the 1960s, Quorn sparked the revolution for meat-free produce as a result of post-war Britain where food shortages were common. Its founder, Lord Rank, was a pioneer in food science and employed a team to find a viable alternative to meat, at a time when conventional and sustainable food and farming couldn’t meet consumer demand.
Since its mainstream launch in 1985 (in partnership with Marlow Foods and Rank Hovis McDougall and Imperial Chemical Industries), the ‘mycoprotein’ has led the way in meat-free alternatives.
It is also highly noted for its many health benefits; it’s low in saturated fat and high in fibre. Plus, it’s versatile and easy to store – much of it being frozen.
Perhaps at the heart of this enterprise, is a business founded in making the world a better place. For instance, Quorn mince uses 90% less land and produces 90% fewer carbon emissions than beef.
Testament to its popularity, Quorn sales have seen a steady increase, with a turnover of £229.6m in the year ending 31 December 2019, up by nearly 5% on the previous year, and no sign of slowing down.
Proving that vegan foods don’t always have to be meat-substitutes, Nakd bars are a wholefoods favourite, founded by entrepreneur Jamie Combs 14 years ago. The growing British company is devoted to “increasing world happiness with yummy healthy, snacks, humour and helpfulness”.
The cereal bar enterprise is owned by Natural Balance Foods, who also manufacture Trek bars – the successful company enjoys a healthy £43.6m in annual turnover.
As well as being vegan-friendly, their products are also gluten, wheat and dairy-free – opening up their range to a wider range of consumers with dietary requirements.
Clearly tapping into the wellbeing marketplace, Nakd focuses on 100% natural ingredients, using dried fruits such as raisins, raspberries and dates in their bars. At last count, it was the second leading cereal bar in the UK, accounting for 10% of all market share.
3. Linda McCartney Foods
Linda McCartney was light years ahead of the market when she launched her meatless range in 1991. Championing ‘Meat-Free Mondays’ with her plant-based sausages, meatballs and more, she made veganism acceptable to the mainstream and started a conversation around animal cruelty.
In 2006, the vegetarian empire was sold to the Hain Celestial Group in USA – a renowned organic food company that continues to stay true to McCartney’s values and legacy.
Linda McCartney Foods continues to innovate with new ranges, such as pulled-pork, scampi bites and hoisin duck, distributed all over the world. To this day, the company consistently ranks in the top list of food companies in the UK with a meat-free ethos.
Since launching in 2016, Gosh! has established itself as an innovative player in agri food products. It has introduced a number of popular snacks and meat-free alternatives, including; beetroot falafel, broad bean and quinoa bites, and mushroom burgers.
Less about replacing meat, more about offering delicious food options to the general market, it has captured the imagination and taste buds of a new generation of foodies. This includes flexitarians through to die-hard vegans. Highly committed to its loyal fanbase, it ensures that only high-quality natural ingredients are used, which are free from the top 14 allergens.
What’s more, the delicious range is widely stocked and can be found everywhere from Ocado to Tesco. The Milton-Keynes based manufacturer employs nearly 100 staff, generating approximately £17.48 million in sales.
In the journey towards sustainable food and farming, great strides have been made in the vegan dairy market. Growing at a pace, the global sector was valued at $2.15 billion and is projected to expand by 9% between 2020 and 2025, according to Market Data Forecast reports.
This valuable market has shown potential, not just to vegans, but also to those with allergens and intolerances too.
Sheese is one of the UK’s leading agri food products supplying dairy, lactose and gluten-free vegan cheese (that is also kosher).
Revered throughout the industry, the business has received a number of prestigious awards for its unique taste and style, including; the FreeFrom Awards, Q Awards, Trade Food & Drink Awards and many others.
Made in the Isle of Bute in Scotland, the business is founded in animal-free produce that achieves the highest ethical standards.
This start-up from Sheffield came about as the result of two friends who decided to try veganism, but found a lack of vegan food products readily available. Borne out of a desire to help, the company, it launched a sell-out cookbook and punchy social media marketing campaign, before expanding into the food market.
The founders have brought a touch of glamour and gloss to the vegan lifestyle and, as two young men, have also challenged perceptions of the modern-day plant-eater.
Unusually for an agri food manufacturer, the brand came before the product, recently entering the industry with a range of vegan-friendly cake mixes, burger and falafel mixes, and sweet treats such as indulgent chocolate cakes.
They continue to be trailblazers in the vegan market, pushing boundaries and innovating with unexpected products and ranges in their growing merchandise. As if you need any more convincing, the BOSH enterprise has more than 776,000 followers on Instagram alone – @bosh.tv.
When you think about marketing vegan food to a millennial market, the boys at BOSH! have successfully created a blueprint for others to follow.
In the age of consumer-driven demand, agri food chains and manufacturers are waking up to and responding to the changing preferences of consumers. With the UK leading the way in new and exciting plant-based produce, there’s clearly an opportunity for growth and innovation.
Veganism is more than a food trend, it’s a lifestyle choice and philosophy that’s steadily growing. But it is remiss to overlook flexitarians and those with limited diets, who also seek meat-free alternatives in this growing age of change.
To win consumers over, innovation and sustainable alternatives must be sought with health, wellbeing, ethics, and scalability all in mind. Quorn, Nakd, Linda McCartney Foods, Gosh!, Sheese, and BOSH! are all testament to great British vegan foods that meet these demands.
Artos is a leading global business platform that enables greater access for small, speciality producers of premium sustainable goods. If you’re looking to scale up your agri food business, vegan or otherwise, specifically around manufacturing, get in touch today at artos.io