International opportunities for UK vegan food brands in 2021

How to use Veganuary to benefit your brand

UK non-profit, Veganuary, has been a driving force behind the rise in vegans around the world for the past 6 years. What was originally viewed as another faddy, 30-day challenge, like Stoptober, Movember and Dry-January, has now become a truly inspiring global movement.

At the time of publication, sign-ups for 2021’s Veganuary had well exceeded 500K. An all-time record for the charity, trumping last year’s 400K participants. If you want to find out more about Veganuary, then head over to our recent blog on global vegan market trends.

But what does this all mean for the global food and beverage market? Let’s look at some more statistics to find out.

In 2020, in the UK alone, over 1,200 new vegan-friendly products were launched, and 600 businesses registered, to coincide with Veganuary. This year, new vegan food product launches are expected to reach record-breaking highs, but we’ll have to wait a couple more weeks to see the final numbers.

You may also be surprised to hear that the pandemic had a positive impact on global sales of plant-based food and beverage. The Plant Based Foods Association reported that, at the height of the pandemic, vegan food sales outpaced total food sales in North America, whilst sales of meat alternatives in the UK grew by 18.4% according to Kantar research.

And finally, according to Plant Based News, 20% of us cooked a 100% vegan Christmas dinner last month!

We think you’ll agree that there is a huge opportunity for food and beverage brands to branch into the plant-based space. With more and more people shifting to a vegan diet each year, now is the time to get involved!

In this article, we’re going to introduce some fantastic opportunities to explore over the next 12 months, covering:

  • Vegan food product trends for 2021

  • Breaking into the vegan foodservice space

  • Vegan private label solutions, and

  • The rise of veganism in the Middle East

Let’s dive in!

Vegan food trends for 2021

We’ve covered some of these trends in previous posts, but here’s a quick reminder of five vegan food trends that we can expect to see grow dramatically this year.

Vegan fish alternatives – if 2020 was the year of plant-based chick’n, then 2021 is the year of plant-based tuna and salmon and shrimp and oysters and any other fish alternative they come up with!

Egg alternatives – grab and go cartons of egg alternatives like aquafaba (chickpea water) are expected to be commonplace on supermarket shelves this year.

Nut milks – did someone say, “we don’t need anymore milk alternatives”? Well apparently, we do! Pistachio milk anyone?

Plant-based oils – not only great for vegans, but incredibly popular with followers of a keto diet, oils made from avocado, hemp, macadamia nuts, and seeds are becoming more widely available.

Vitamin-enriched products – if you can pack B12, algae Omega 3, and/or any other vitamins and minerals typically lacking in a vegan diet into your products, then you’re onto a winner.

To find out all about our top five health and wellness trends for 2021, including the rise of the flexitarian diet, head over here.

Breaking into the vegan foodservice space

A mere five years ago there were little to no fully vegan dishes on restaurant menus around the world, especially on the high street. But today patrons are utterly spoilt for choice!

There is no time like the present for plant-based brands to gain exposure through the foodservice industry, thanks to the number of opportunities available through partnerships with popular eateries.

The fast-food segment is one area which is constantly churning out new plant-based products. Let’s take a quick look at some of the most notable partnerships of recent years…

These partnerships are proving incredibly successful, despite the pandemic, thanks to food delivery services like Deliveroo, JustEat and UberEats. 

The publicity gained through these partnerships also provides plant-based brands a great opportunity to sell more of their products direct-to-consumers as they start to dominate supermarket shelves.

However, two areas of the foodservice sector that are lacking in plant-based options are airlines and hotel chains – so, if you can partner with big names in travel and hospitality then the cards are stacked in your favour!

Vegan private label solutions

Supermarkets are constantly looking to increase the number of own-brand plant-based products, with the major retailers competing to have the most options on their shelves. This presents a huge opportunity for manufacturers of private label products/product ranges.

In the UK, the supermarket chains with the most vegan own-brand products are Tesco, Asda and Waitrose. But they better watch out because M&S, Co-op and Aldi are quickly catching up.

Whilst in the US, the best places to find plant-based produce are Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Ralphs.

Private label solutions are a great way for smaller plant-based brands to make their mark on the food and beverage sector. In fact, it’s a great way for brands to demonstrate their creativity and innovation in order to stand out from the crowd. 

It’s important to point out that supermarkets have well and truly clocked onto Veganuary and launch a variety of products across the new year in anticipation for the start of the campaign. This means you need to get in there early.

If you’re an international retailer, or brand owner, looking for private label solutions in the plant-based category, here are six important considerations for your search.

The rise of veganism in the Middle East

Whilst much of Europe and North America remain in lockdown, the Middle East is recovering well providing plenty of opportunities for plant-based brands to get ahead of the competition.

In the UAE, more consumers are making the decision to reduce their meat, fish and dairy intake, allowing businesses in the food and beverage sector the chance to grow rapidly. The plant-based category has experienced double-digital growth over the last two years, providing plenty of opportunity for international brands to enter the region.

Local supermarket chain, Spinneys Dubai, has seen its frozen plant-based category grow by 600% over the last year alone, with Beyond Meat, VBites, Cauldron Foods, and Tofurky among the brands becoming “major players” in the region.

Another popular retailer in the Middle East, Organic & Real, is quickly becoming the largest online platform for natural, organic, free-from, and vegan produce. With over 5,000 products from both local and international brands, Organic & Real is well on its way to achieving its goal of being the “No. 1 vegan and organic online brand in the region (UAE)” with its first overseas operations in Saudi Arabia commencing this year.

With Gulfood set to return to Dubai from 21–25 February 2021, we’re likely to see plenty of local brands stepping into the plant-based market.

One local success story is Healthy Farm Eatery who recently launched a range of frozen vegan products, including kebab-style pieces and chicken-alternative chunks. Unlike its competitors, Healthy Farm has taken a different approach to sales by by-passing physical shelf space, focusing instead on developing supply chains with hotels, restaurants and other foodservice outlets, and local online food retailers Kibsons and Organic & Real.

On the foodservice side, partnerships with well-known local chains are also a great way to maximise reach in the Middle East, just as we have seen in the West. For example, Beyond Meat is now one of the most popular meat-alternatives in the region thanks to its partnership with Bareburger. And now, smaller UK brand, Moving Mountains is growing in popularity thanks to being featured on Applebee’s menus across Dubai.

So, to summarise, here are our top tips for preparing for next year’s Veganuary:

  • Innovate to differentiate

  • Be creative with your marketing to stand out from the crowd

  • Consider a brand re-launch to coincide with Veganuary

  • Leverage influencers and celebrity endorsements

  • Partner with household names to maximise reach

  • Look for opportunities overseas, particularly in the Middle East

Now, it’s over to you!

If you’re the producer of plant-based products, or a retailer or distributor looking to source Vegan food products or private label solutions for your brand, do not hesitate to reach out to the Bolst Global team who will help you expand your reach overseas. Get in touch with us today! 

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