A record 500,000 people have signed up for the Veganuary challenge to eat only plant-based foods for a month. The achievement was double the number pledged to become vegan in January 2019.
A quarter of those who took up the challenge – 125,000 – were in the UK, and this year UK supermarkets are included Tesco has run television and radio commercials promoting Veganuary for the first time. Other supermarkets like Aldi, Asda and Iceland has produced a dedicated page including information and recipes for 2021, again for the first time.
New research from investment bank UBS on plant-based alternatives to meat, such as veggie burgers and sausages, shows an increasing number of people are trying new products. The proportion of people who have tried the alternative rose from 48% to 53% between March and November 2020, according to a UBS survey of 3,000 consumers in the UK, US and Germany. It also found that half of those who tried plant-based alternatives to meat continued to eat it at least weekly.
Veganuary is a global campaign recently focused on Latin America, where 150,000 people have registered this year, along with 80,000 in the US and 50,000 in Germany.
People provide a number of reasons for choosing to reduce the amount of animal-based foods in their diets, ranging from reducing animal suffering to improving health or to reducing environmental damage caused by food production. There are already many people in rich countries eat more meat than is healthy, and scientists say that cutting meat is one best way individuals can overcome the climate and wildlife crisis.
“I feel like eating really plant-based foods is no longer controversial,” said Veganuary’s Toni Vernelli. “Almost everyone has accepted that we need to reduce animal products in our diet for environmental reasons.”
“The way UK supermarkets are embracing Veganuary this year has completely changed the game,” he said. “They are not only using it as a marketing opportunity, but promoting the many benefits of a plant-based diet. As a bulwark for our food supply, they know that the only sustainable way forward is to focus on plants. “
Vernelli highlights a message about animal welfare on Aldi’s website: “Eating less meat or avoiding animal products is often a very transparent way of showing that you want to make a difference.” Vernelli also noted that Marks & Spencer has come up with a 31-day Vegan meal plan.
“The most recent iteration of our survey shows that plant-based meats continue to gain momentum,” said Andrew Stott of UBS. But he says taste is a major problem for many people: “Among consumers who don’t want to try plant-based meats these days, 59% said, ‘I don’t think it’s good.'” Other reasons include disliking “highly processed” products (37%) and cost (29%).
However, half of the people in the UBS survey said they believe plant-based meat alternatives are healthier and more environmentally friendly than meat.
Dozens of companies around the world are also working to develop real meat cells in barrels without the need for slaughtering animals. The first sale of cultivated meat happened recently in Singapore, where Eat Just “chicken bites” are served to diners. But it is hoped that it will be at least several years before cultivated meats reach a wide market.