At our recent Vevolution Topics: Food Innovation event an audience member asked about the role of mainstream brands in growing the plant-based movement.
On the night the panel overwhelmingly supported big brands entering the plant-based sector. I felt this was an interesting subject and one worth raising on this blog.
Seeds Of Change
The past year has seen big players in the UK food market sector start to take the needs of plant-based customers seriously.
Mainstream restaurants like Pret, Zizzi's and Wagamama have led the way when it comes to creating new choices for customers wanting to eat plant-based.
The approach of Wagamama is interesting - they have built relationships with the vegan community hosting big meet-ups and collaborating with vegan chefs to develop their menu.
A mistake that non-vegan restaurants have made in the past when developing vegan dishes is that they leave stuff out instead of adding the extra flavours plant-based foods bring. Their collaboration with CookDaily of the #CookMama dish is a sign Wagamama are serious about creating great tasting vegan food.
What Is The Mainstream?
In her talk at Vevolution Festival 2017, Meriel Armitage, Founder of Club Mexicana spoke at length about the role of the mainstream in veganism. This talk will be released by us online soon on YouTube and speaks to how veganism has been a movement of compassion created by people wanting to make a better world. It has always set out to be inclusive and diverse.
The 'mainstream', Fox News, Trump, Daily Mail are never going to support veganism. And to us players like Tesco launching plant-based products feels mainstream. But this is still a tiny fraction of food that Tesco sells on a daily basis.
What brands like Tesco, Sainsbury's, M&S, Waitrose do is grow the potential for vegan businesses to sell products. It puts the idea of plant-based eating on the radar of middle Britain.
If you are a vegan business owner see it as free marketing.
Ultimately in this highly hegemonised world people with a passion for food will always seek out the unique products. And artisan products will usually rise to the top when it comes to flavour. There are exceptions like the new Wicked Kitchen range which tastes great. But usually the craft and laser focus smaller providers can bring to a product will mean there is always a demand.
Growing The Niche And Supporting Vegan Business
I believe we all should go to Wagamama, buy Wicked Kitchen and enjoy the glorious vegan coconut bites at Pret.
We are really proud to be sponsored by BOL who announced this week they are ditching their dairy products and going fully plant-based.
It needs to be super easy for people to walk into any shop in the UK and get vegan lunch options connivence will bring growth and normalisation of plant-based eating. We need big brands to do this. They have the distribution, the money and expertise to make this a reality.
Our friends at Bright Zine have recently launched an awesome support vegan business campaign encouraging people to support vegan business. Where possible we should actively make this decision as well. Vegan businesses not only deliver great products and services built on passion for growing veganism they also push the imperative to transform our food culture, they talk about animals, the environment and making people healthier.
For many of the entrepreneurs we know run a vegan business because they are passionate about it. They could be earning a lot more money working for a big company but they get up every day and put their love and craft in-to what they create.
So ultimately non vegan brands (big supermarkets and restaurants) whilst they may not be vegan they are making plant-based eating more normal, increasingly accessible and inclusive to people wherever they are in the UK.
The role of vegan businesses is to fill the gaps, create the truly outstanding products that people will always want. And we should keep talking about the plight of animals, the role of animal agriculture in causing climate change the benefits of eating a healthy plant-based diet.
Learn More About Entrepreneurship
On the evening of 13th March we are holding our Vevolution Topics: Entrepreneur event at the Trampery in Shoreditch, London. Limited tickets are left for this event which will see some of the UK's brightest plant-based entrepreneurs come together for an evening of sharing ideas.