Veganuary is over for another year, and although I had planned to make this post in the middle of January, recently becoming a father has meant my spare time has been limited. I wanted to make a post expressing my joy and gratitude to Veganuary and to celebrate what it has become.
In 2020, Veganuary feels like it’s truly gone mainstream. Big high street brands were falling over themselves to put out a vegan product this year. KFC, Greggs, Subway, Costa and Caffè Nero all got in on the act, and supermarkets all over the UK seem to have increased their vegan range to coincide. It all means one thing; veganism is picking up steam. If not the reasons behind it, certainly the word is becoming much more normalised and accepted and pushed into people’s consciousness.
Veganuary was a big help to me last year at the start of my vegan journey, but mainly online, in the form of recipe sharing, motivational quotes and educational pieces on why veganism is so important. This year, it feels like it’s cemented itself as a tangible movement for veganism in the real world.
One of the biggest barriers to going fully vegan, I think, is convenience. By bringing vegan options to popular fast food establishments and cafés, the barriers are being broken down. There’s a kneejerk reaction from non-vegans - who perhaps feel their way of life threatened or invaded - to call out the healthiness of these products. And, correctly, they’re often not health foods you want to make a part of your daily diet. But that’s entirely missing the point. Veganism isn’t a diet, and it isn’t about being a health nut. Secondly, they’re being sold alongside products which are equally as unhealthy for omnivores. No one should be under the illusion a KFC Zinger burger nor a Greggs Steak Bake is healthy.
When a vegan sausage roll is being sold next to an original meat sausage roll - and likewise now with the new steak bake - it gives people a choice. It allows people, with no additional burden of cost or inconvenience, to make a conscious decision when buying food out. This is huge for veganism and a direction which optimstically I see a lot of brands and food outlets going in.
Not only has high street vegan fast food rightfully got the spotlight this January, supermarkets have been slowly expanding their vegan offerings, with ever-increasing momentum it seems. Most supermarket chains now have their own branded plant-based products. This is different from the vegan products that got lumped into the various free-from ranges. This is a distinct, marketable, fresh brand devoted solely to food without animal products. Again, this is huge!
Marks and Spencer’s well-established Plant Kitchen range has some exciting new products for Veganuary. This, on top of a very successful Christmas period where they launched, among other things, a vegan festive roast (which I had on Christmas day, and was delicious). The No Chicken Kiev is delightful, and shows how far meat substitutes have come. I’ve had seals of approval from meat-eaters on these they’re that good. Tofish and chips is another big British staple which now has a viable, and accessible plant-based alternative.
Sainsbury’s - who have always had a decent vegan range - are pushing their new brand Plant Pioneers. Among the range is their famous Shroomdogs (as well as new Shroomballs), Fishless fingers, Smoky Vacon Rashers, and numerous jackfruit products. They also feature tins of banana blossum and jackfruit in water (products you’d previously only find in specialised shops), so you can make your own recipes too.
Wicked Kitchen at Tesco have some amazing looking ready meals, plus a sticky toffee pudding which I can’t wait to get my hands on.
They’re all it. Largely because you have to keep up with competition and growing market trends. But regardless of motivation, choice is everything. You can go into any supermarket and, whether you’re doing Veganuary or are a seasoned vegan looking for something quick and easy, you can find something healthy, tasty and nutritious.
It’s massive that large, well-known chains are kickstarting their year with great vegan offerings to make the most of the surge in demand in January. But the key thing is, these products aren’t just for Veganuary. They will be mainstays in supermarkets because the demand is there. And as long as it’s visible in supermarkets, fast food joints and the like, consumers will grow curious.
Hurray for Veganuary; long may it continue!