A decade ago, it was slim pickings for vegans in UK supermarkets, which offered little in the way of plant-based meals – Linda McCartney was about as good as it got.
Fast forward 10 years and the vegan diet is not only booming in popularity, but being driven partly by supermarkets. According to Veganuary, a campaign to get people to embrace veganism in January, the UK’s grocery giants have helped inspire a record 500,000 people to make the pledge this year. New vegan products and dedicated Veganuary pages on supermarket websites, it says, have helped enlist new recruits.
“The way British supermarkets have embraced Veganuary this year is truly gamechanging,” said Veganuary’s Toni Vernelli. “They are not simply using it as a marketing opportunity, but are promoting the many benefits of plant-based eating and encouraging people to give it a try. As bastions of our food supply, they know that the only sustainable way forward is plant-focused.”
With the UK market for vegan food products predicted to swell to £658m this year, there is of course a financial incentive for supermarkets to jump on the (meat-free) gravy train and offer more plant-based foodstuffs. Enter Asda, which announced this week that it will trial a vegan butcher counter at its Watford store.
Further evidence that plant-based diets have broken into the mainstream is also provided by Deliveroo, which reported this week that orders for vegan takeaways have surged by 163 per cent so far this year.
As well as being a boon for bottom lines, veganism is also beneficial to the environment. A 2019 study by the University of Oxford concluded that adopting a plant-based diet could be the single biggest way for people to improve their health and that of the planet.
Main image: Brooke Lark