Last updated: 26.02.19

What We Learned from Veganuary 2019

Dry January is a concept that just about everyone is familiar with, but until now, Veganuary was a far smaller movement that not many people had heard of. It’s fairly straightforward; people sign up and commit to going for the whole month without consuming any animal products, and 2019 has been one of the biggest years for the charity that organises it. Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned.

It’s been another record year

Since the inception of the movement, engagement rates have doubled each year, and this year more than a quarter of a million people in nearly 200 countries signed up at the beginning of the month. It’s not known how many more people have been encouraged to give the month ago, even if they didn’t sign up to the charity’s pledge, and many more have expressed their interest in consuming more vegan meals through social media. It’s clear that this is a movement that’s rapidly gaining ground.

It’s also been more global too. For the first five years, the pledge was written only in English, but the organisers this year made the effort to have it translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Swedish, Russian and Icelandic as countries all over the world begin to develop a stronger interest in a vegan diet.

Retailers are taking notice

Many of those who signed up to Veganuary for the first time in 2019 will no doubt have been surprised by the breadth of products on offer at the major retailers.

All supermarkets now carry a significant vegan and vegetarian range, with dozens of meat-free alternatives and meat substitutes. From chicken nuggets to lookalike prawns, there’s a lot to choose from. Traditionally vegetarian brands such as Quorn have also begun to increase their vegan-specific offering, and M&S won PETA's first ever 'Vegan-Friendly High Street Retailer Award.

There are even indications that some of the major fast-food chains might start to include options in their menus. Greggs, in particular, hit the headlines with their vegan sausage roll, which has proven to be so popular that it’s regularly sold out. McDonald's do have some vegan options such as the new red pesto Veggie Deluxe without mayo, but other items are made on the same production line as non-vegan items so cross-contamination cannot be guaranteed (you can find out a little more about cross contamination by looking at our hygiene courses here).

It’s not just about animal welfare

In mid-2018, the largest ever report into the impact farming has on the environment found that reducing meat and dairy intake was the single biggest thing that the average person could do to reduce their own impact on the environment. Industrial scale farming produces a very significant amount of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, but it also takes up an incredible amount of space and is the chief reason for the extinction of wild animals worldwide. This is exacerbated by the fact that it’s highly inefficient; by weight, and even in terms of important nutrients and proteins, meat lags a long way behind the efficiency of plant-derived foods.

This knowledge is become increasingly widespread, which is likely one of the reasons that interest in veganism - and by extension vegetarianism - is taking off in a big way in 2019. It’s not just those who are concerned about animal welfare that should look to reducing their consumption of animal products. When going vegan is reportedly better for the world than buying an electric car, many people will have choices to make.

Vegan food doesn’t have to be ‘healthy’

One of the most frequently cited reasons for not switching to vegan food is that there are few options when it comes to comfort foods or those unhealthy treats we all like from time to time. Well, this doesn’t have to be the case, and social media, in particular, has been alight with recipes for vegan dishes that are just as delicious as any meat or dairy derived product. From meringue to pizza, you’re not restricted to eating salads.

It’s clear from Veganuary 2019 that the movement is gaining speed, and those working in the food industry, whether in product development, retail or catering, will need to begin to appreciate this if they haven’t already. With polling suggesting that another 2 million people in the UK might become vegan or vegetarian in 2019, manufacturers will need to develop new products, retailers will need to stock additional ranges, and caterers will need to create new dishes.

What does our Food Industry expert think?

At Virtual College we work with many industry experts who have developed years of experience and us help understand and shape the future of the industry.

Their experience is invaluable in spotting trends, which can help shape new courses and develop the latest content to keep you informed about what’s happening in your industry.

I think it is often the case that people assume that vegan food is a healthy choice, but that can often not be the case. 

In the past when there was very little available for vegans to choose from, a lot of poor-quality products would be accepted, in the same way that ‘Free From’ products were often nutritionally poor and lacking in flavour.

Now that the ‘Free From’ market has expanded it is attracting new investments for innovative, nutritionally beneficial and great tasting products. This helps to further increase the market size and attractiveness for investors.

I think we will also see more of that happen in the vegan market. There are also a lot of new businesses starting up to satisfy the demand for vegan products, so choice and quality of products will increase. 

To be a healthy vegan and eat a well-balanced diet, you currently really need a good understanding of nutrition, but I think we will see more products that include the vital nutrients and inform people of the nutrients that vegans need, that they are rich in.

This year The British Pie Awards, surely a bastion for carnivores, reluctantly agreed to add a vegan category to their awards, and what happened next will surely have surprised many. 

The vegan category winner, a butcher called Jon Thorner from Shepton Mallett, has been crowned overall Supreme Champion of the British Pie Awards for his curried sweet potato and butternut pie.