Leveraging the ‘hyper growth’ of the vegan market

With the boost to bakery chain Greggs largely down to its newly launched vegan sausage roll, and many taking on ‘veganuary’ this month, the rise of alternative food and drinks products is no longer a trend, but a shift in lifestyle. How can businesses leverage it?

British sales of non-dairy milk rose 9.4% – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

British sales of non-dairy milk rose 9.4% between 2016-17 to £221m, while sales of cow’s milk grew 0.3% to £3.1bn over the same period, according to market researchers Mintel.

“We’re seeing hyper growth in demand,” said Ishen Paran, UK general manager at Swedish-based alternative milk business, Oatly, to the Financial Times. The business expects its turnover this year to hit £84m, this almost a 60% hike on the previous year.

Britain’s vegan new product development (NPD) is thriving. Last year, the UK was reportedly the nation with the highest number of new vegan food products launched, toppling Germany from its number one spot, according to Mintel.

This is reflected in consumption, one in three British meat eaters reportedly reduced their meat consumption in the six months to July 2018 following a ‘flexitarian’ diet, up from 28% in the same period in 2017.

Macphie, the UK’s leading food manufacturer for bakery ingredients and food-service solutions, has launched the first vegan-certified cake mix and icing range aimed at the bakery sector.

The international bakery supplier intends to leverage the growing vegan market that saw as many as one in six (16%) food products launched in the UK in 2018 with a vegan/no animal ingredients claim, doubling from 8% in 2015.

Macphie told TM: “Veganism and vegetarianism have become more mainstream over the last few years. We have been looking at many of our most popular products and where possible reformulating them to align to this.”

Work smarter, not harder

The business continued, “There is a general rise in demand for customisation.” Macphie is looking to adapt their formulas so that standard mixes can make multiple products, in a ‘work smarter, not harder’ approach.

The production line at Macphie - image courtesy of Macphie.
The production line at Macphie – image courtesy of Macphie.

“People have an expectation that they can have exactly what they want, because so many consumer products can be adapted now. We now produce food products that can do the same, e.g. we have a standard bread mix that can make anything from a morning roll to focaccia.”

Macphie concluded: “It’s a matter of understanding the market needs and creating a versatile base product that can be used in a variety of dishes.”

It makes sense. Why not make all products with one formula that is vegetarian and/or vegan certified. This caters to a market that is growing at an impressive rate, but also at the same time serves current ones.

Another business scaling-up their alternative offerings is Northern Ireland-based food company, Finnebrogue, once famed for its gourmet meat sausages.

Though the business has been producing vegetarian and vegan products for three years, its opening of a new £3m vegetarian and vegan factory marks a significant expansion of the firm’s meat-free production.

The meat and dairy-free market is growing, and food and drinks manufacturers should leverage this to the best of their abilities. The UK is the world leader in the launch of vegan products, and this reflects what the UK population is choosing to purchase. It is therefore important to work in an efficient and innovative way in order to capitilise on this.

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