Food Spark’s Veganuary roundup

A comprehensive look at all the major retail vegan releases this month.

16 January 2020
flexitarianNPDplant-basedready mealssupermarketsvegetablesvegan

Aldi

The German discounter has gone for affordable and recognisable with their Veganuary releases. Common ingredients include jackfruit and cauliflower.

Own-label highlights: Plant Menu

Aldi's vegan sausage roll

Vegan sausage roll, 99p

Available in original No Pork and BBQ Jackfruit flavours, vegan sausage rolls are something of a hero product across the respective plant-based ranges.

Vegan ready meals, £1.99 per 400g

A selection of frozen ready meals. The three dishes – smoky BBQ jackfruit, red pepper and mango curry and yellow Thai curry – were first launched as limited editions last January.

Vegan pizza, £1.75

The three-strong range is made up of BBQ jackfruit, spicy cauliflower and ‘bacon’ and mushroom.

Vegan rosemary and onion sausages, 99p per 300g

Said to resemble a traditional sausage in size, shape and taste.

Other releases

Specially Selected vegan parcels, £2.99 for two

Available as either BBQ jackfruit or Spicy Firecracker Vegetable, these are hand-made crispy vegan pastry parcels, golden on the outside and full of roasted vegetables, herbs and spices.

Limited-edition Eat & Go Korean BBQ-style chick’n sandwich, £1.69

Aldi’s headline food-to-go offering for Veganuary is made up of chicken style pieces in a Korean-style BBQ sauce, topped with pink pickled onions, vegan mayonnaise and spinach.

Eat & Go vegan onion bhaji with sweet potato and cauliflower wrap, £1.79

This Indian-inspired, spiced tortilla wrap contains onion bhaji, spiced cauliflower and sweet potato purée, pickled red cabbage, mango and apricot chutney and spinach.

Inspired Cuisine vegan ready meals, £2.49 per 380g

The two premium ready meals – mushroom bolognese and three bean chilli – are takes on traditional winter classics.

 

Julie Ashfield, managing director of buying at Aldi UK, tells Food Spark:

"With Veganuary becoming bigger each year, and demand for meat-free alternatives growing, we're confident that the launch of our new vegan range will help customers looking to make the switch to plant-based eating this January enjoyable and purse friendly.”

Asda

Leading the charge for the supermarket is the launch of their 48-strong Plant Based range that spans ready meals, frozen and food to go. The range looks to provide “something for everyone”, with Mark Richmond, their head innovation development chef, telling Food Spark that making plant-based food affordable was one of the main goals in the creation of the line.

Own-label highlights: Asda Plant Based

Sweet potato katsu curry, £2.50

Said by the retailer to be “mild, creamy and tasty meat-free alternative to a British favourite dish”, the curry is made up of breaded sweet potato chunks, jasmine rice with a butternut squash and coconut katsu sauce.

Meat free burgers, £1.50

Soya-free and made primarily with mushroom base that “eats like meat”.

Smokey tofu burrito, £2.50

A blend of tofu with a smoky chipotle sauce.

Duckless spring rolls, £2.25

These spring rolls have mock duck and water chestnut as their main ingredients.

Mushroom arancini, £2.25

Tapping into the growing trend for Italian food in the UK, Asda’s meat-free arancini are filled with vegan mozzarella, mushrooms and risotto, and are finished with a breadcrumb batter.

Spaghetti and veggie balls, £2.50

Containing under 500 calories, this chilled ready meal contains soya meatballs with spaghetti in an arrabbiata sauce.

No-zzarella sticks, £2.25

An accessible ‘junk food’ option, the sticks are a blend of plant-based alternatives to mozzarella and mature cheddar and are coated with a parsley crumb.

 

Mark Richmond, head innovation development chef, tells Food Spark:

“Health shouldn’t be a price tag so, where we can, we keep the price as low as possible. Affordable health is a big pull for consumers today. We’re also focusing on greens and ambers in the labelling, which furthers the perception of ‘true health’. There are a lot of plant-based products elsewhere that aren’t perhaps as healthy as they should be.

“In the future, we’ll be looking more with desserts and more on indulgence within the range, building on our existing products in that trend.

“We worked with our brilliant nutrition team to set parameters when we started off with an overarching goal to offer meat avoiding/reducing customers who want healthy, convenient and tasty ways to fill meat-free eating occasions, with focus on fresh and nutrition, with trust obtained through Vegan Society approval.”

Tesco

The UK’s largest supermarket chain has added 24 new products to its Plant Chef and Wicked Kitchen ranges, with the launch of the country’s first plant-based condiment range arguably the highlight of the release.

Derek Sarno, executive chef and director of plant-based innovation at Tesco, said that the new line "will add that element of wicked excitement for all food-lovers looking to liven up their home-cooked dishes and help make choosing to eat more plant-based easier than ever!”

Meanwhile, Plant Chef has its first frozen options with meat-free sausage rolls, nut cutlets and burgers, with a number of food-to-go options also unleashed.

Own-label highlights: Wicked Kitchen

Wicked Dreamy Beetroot Dressing, £1.50

Thai inspired with coconut and lime.

Wicked Mazin’ Mango Sauce, £1.75

Sweet and fruity with turmeric root, squeeze of lime and a chilli kick.

Wicked Hella’ Horseradish and Mustard Sauce, £1.75

Punchy mustard with a hint of turmeric.

Wicked Sriracha Sauce, £1.75

With fiery birds eye chillies, garlic and a touch of sweetness.

Wicked Sticky Teriyaki Sauce, £1.75

Savoury, sticky and sweet soy ginger BBQ sauce

 

Sparkie says...

This seems to be a change in marketing rather than a change in product direction.

A large selection of condiments are naturally plant-based anyway but pushing the marketing down that road is really what is new here.

It sort of sounds as though they are trying to create a whole section out of this stuff, kind of like the "free-from" aisle where you can make a meal out of their products that are labelled as plant-based.

I would be on the fence if that is a good way to go, I can see some customers preferring the convenience of it but some might also find the idea quite limiting as they are used to checking labels and know what they want from the rest of the aisles.

In terms of the products, the sauce that stands out really is the beetroot based dressing.

Beetroot is a rather underrated vegetable that can provide a relatively unique earthy flavour and pairing that with the coconut and lime sounds fairly good. 

The Co-op

As discussed in our recent standalone piece, Co-op have launched a new range, named Gro, made up of 35 meat-free products for Veganuary, with the supermarket now boasting over 1,000 vegan food and drink products in total.

Some of the products in the Gro range are takes on classic British staples, such as the chilli con nachos and the vegan sticky toffee pudding. Six ready meals, two desserts and a host of food-to-go options make up a large part of the release.

Own-label highlights: Gro

Gro chilli con nachos, £2.95 per 380g

A spicy soya and bean chilli with green jalapenos and a wild rice mix.

Gro katsu curry 350g, £2.95 per 350g

Breaded soya bites in a classic katsu curry sauce with jasmine rice.

Gro creamy coconut cauliflower curry, £2.95

Made with green beans, roast squash and jasmine rice.

Gro tomato and black olive bucatini, £2.95 per 350g

Bucatini pasta with a mildly spiced tomato sauce and sliced black olives, topped with cherry tomatoes, sliced black olives, yellow baby plum tomato halves and a basil puree.

Gro the kashmiri spice, £3.50 per 250g

A single-serve stonebaked pizza topped with stringy mozzarisella, spiced cauliflower and spicy Kashmiri-style sauce.

Hoisin du'k wrap, £2.95 per 184g

Soy and hoisin bites with spring onions and cucumber wrap.

Gro spicy squash and mex bean salad, £2.65 per 250g

Spicy squash and Mexican bean salad with avocado dip and tortilla chips.

Gro hoisin du'k protein Pot, £1.50 per 110g

Soy bites with edamame in sweet and sticky hoisin sauce.

Gro the vegan steak bake, £1.50 per 133g

Crisp pastry filled with a rich mushroom gravy.

Gro sizzlin’ sausages, £3.00

Sausages made from soya and shrooms with black pepper and herbs.

12 meaty meatballs, £3.00 per 300g

Vegan balls made using mushrooms, parsnip and seitan with herbs and flavourings.

Smokin' bean burgers, £3.00

Chick peas, black turtle beans, roasted red pepper, sweet potato and butternut squash with smoked paprika and chipotle chilli flakes.

 

Sparkie says...

Overall, the Gro range seems interesting. The three things that stand out to me are the chilli con nachos mainly because this could be a positive sign of things to come.

The market for vegan/vegetarian foods has mainly focused on fresh foods but merging these trends with the push for convenience might shake up the market a little. Although I’m still not keen on products that use the meat names in their title, I think the steak bake sounds good. A lot of the original ideas surrounding meat replacement was to use mushrooms to develop an intense savoury flavour in order to disguise the lack of meat.

The push for more direct replacements came later, but I think the better way forward is the old way – creating foods that simply don’t need the meat. I’d have a similar sentiment about their spicy squash and Mexican bean salad: it’s a product that doesn’t need the meat to be good and doesn’t attempt to shoehorn in some loose association. I like the idea of the side of chips and dip to go with it to make it a little more exciting than the basic salad.

Sainsbury's

Plant Pioneers, the new own-label brand, launched on New Years Day and is made up of 31 ambient, chilled and frozen lines. The new sub-brand arrives in response to “soaring demand” for plant-based in the UK, with the supermarket seeing a 40% increase in sales of plant-based products year on year.

Own-label highlights: Plant Pioneers

Banana Blossom in water, £1.50 per 400g

With scratch cooking on the rise, Sainsbury’s are offering the up-and-coming meat alternative simply in water for the home cook.

Peking No Duck Jackfruit, £2 per 150g

A meat-free alternative to traditional Peking Duck, to be paired with Chinese pancakes, cucumber and spring onions.

Mexican Style Jackfruit, £2 per 150g

An alternative filling for the likes of tacos, to be paired with salsa and/or guacamole.

Spicy No Lamb Shawarma Jackfruit, £2 per 150g

A Middle-Eastern inspired dish to be paired with flatbread or couscous.

Sweet and Smoky BBQ Jackfruit, £2 per 150g

An alternative to pulled pork, aimed at buns, wraps or with rice.

 

Sparkie says...

There really seems like a lot to like in the plant-based range. From a marketing perspective, I don't think they need the 'no (meat product)' titles any more.

They are probably doing themselves a disservice at this point by including it because it is not going to attract any more vegans/vegetarians to the product but forcing the idea of a meat alternative will turn off some potential omnivores from trying it, since that type of product still has negative quality perceptions – although it is slowly getting better.

The pouch of shawarma flavoured jackfruit is a great convenience product – it makes me wish there were meat equivalents as it sounds quite good for a lazy dinner. Jackfruit is becoming common as a meat replacement option, so it will be interesting to see how other ingredients do with the public, such as Sainsbury's fairly novel use of banana blossom.

I sense that there is a movement towards having the ingredients available rather than this being solely about convenience and ready-made products, which does appear to be a relatively new step in how this trend is progressing. All in all, this should be treated as the expected baby steps. We sit on massive market uncertainty, so I wouldn't expect anything spectacularly novel for a while, but these are sensible developments.

M&S No chicken kiev

Marks & Spencer

More than 100 new vegan products, including food to go, snacks, drinks and ready meals, landed in M&S stores on January 2, with their popular Plant Kitchen own label getting a number of additions.

The supermarket has also launched their Hidden Veggies range which allows more flexi-minded consumers to incorporate more vegetables into their diets while still eating meat.

Own-label highlights: Plant Kitchen and Hidden Veggies

Plant Kitchen tofish and chips, £3.50 per 350g

Battered tofu goujons with chips and a vegan tartare sauce

Healthy veg pots, £3.50 per 350g

Available in sharing and individual portions, and the range includes:

The Roasted One: garlic roasted veg and rice with a rosemary and tomato sauce

The Bang Bang One: an aromatic vegetable curry with a spicy coconut sauce

The Fiery One: a spiced vegetable and cauliflower couscous with a harissa sauce

Plant Kitchen beetroot and carrot bourguignon, £3.50

A wintery vegan option combining a root vegetable bourguignon with cauliflower mash

Plant Kitchen no smoked salmon and potato salad, £3.50

The salmon is a ‘smoky marinated carrot’ with the salad containing new potatoes with egg-free mayo.

Plant Kitchen no chicken kiev, £3.50 per 285g

Made with soya protein, these kievs are filled with “oozy and delicious, garlicky vegan butter”

Hidden Veggies beef and carrot mince

Select Farms British beef mince blended with carrots to provide one of your five-a-day

Hidden Veggies chicken and vegetable meatballs

Made with Select Farms British chicken plus red peppers and chickpeas.

Hidden Veggies beef and mushroom burgers

Beef burgers with added mushrooms

 

Gurdeep Loyal, head of trends at M&S, tells Food Spark:

“We’ve released a whole host of products focusing on health which is now becoming extremely personal to consumers and their families. The Veganuary release focuses, in part, on freshness and clean label, including the meal pots that are packed full of vegetables and wholegrains with punchy, vibrant flavours.

“We’ve done a whole lot of innovation on our Plant Kitchen vegan range, where we wanted to make sure that, if you wanted to go for a vegan product, its very much taste first.

“We’ve just launched our no chicken kiev which has all the lovely flavours and textures that you want.

“We’ve also launched the Hidden Veggies range which is responding to consumers who are not necessarily looking to phase out meat entirely but are taking a more flexitarian approach, so this range features blended meat products with vegetables that have one of your five-a-day.

“A lot of what we’re now doing is focusing on products that never compromise on taste but are offering things across the health spectrum.”

Iceland

Iceland have released a number of vegan options (arriving across January and February) featuring plant-based comfort food and takes on classic meaty dishes.

Own-label highlights

No Bull mushroom steaks

No Chick sweet and sour, £2 per 350g

A combination of soya protein, red peppers and pineapple in a sweet and sour sauce.

No Bull cottage pie, £2 per 400g

A plant-based take on a proper British classic.

No Porkies bacon pasta, £2 per 350g

One of the aforementioned comfort food options, this penne pasta dish combines plant-based alternatives to chicken and bacon with mushrooms in a dairy-free creamy sauce.

No Bull mushroom steaks, £2 per 2x80g

The supermarket has launched a steak alternative made with mushroom and wheat fibre, seasoned with herbs and spices.

No Bull steak burgers, £2 per 2x113g

Chunky burgers made from wheat protein.

 

Waitrose vegan satay with soya pieces and rice noodles

Waitrose

With more than 30 new vegan products arriving this month, Waitrose is focusing on three main themes: convenient yet vibrant ready meals, alternatives to favourites such as pizza, pasta and garlic bread, and shortcut cooking ingredients to make life easier for vegan home cooks.

Own-label highlights

Waitrose pea and jack hock fiorelli

Asian inspired BBQ mushroom with sticky rice, £3.75/350g

Slices of roasted portobello mushroom in a spicy chilli and garlic sauce with wilted pak choi and pickled vegetables. Comes with “fluffy and aromatic” sticky rice.

Pea and jack hock fiorelli

Jackfruit ‘hock’ combined with petit pois and flavoured with mint and smoked paprika, all stuffed inside ravioli-esque pasta.

No egg fried rice, £1.99 per 350g

Containing petit pois, spring onion, ginger and sesame oil, this fried rice contains egg made from tofu blended with turmeric to give it its realistic yellow colour.

Vegan satay with soya pieces and rice noodles, £3.75 per 375g

This chilled stir fry meal features flat rice noodles and soya pieces, tossed in a peanut satay sauce, with mange tout, carrot batons and slices of red chilli.

Vegan sweet potato katsu curry with sticky rice, £3.75 per 365g

Another version of the popular Japanese dish, this comes with breaded chunks of sweet potato with sticky white rice and coconut curry sauce.

Vegan marinated no beef chunks, £2.99 per 180g

Made from seitan, mushrooms and jackfruit, this offering is aimed at home cooks looking to substitute in a vegan alternative for things like stews and casseroles.

 

Sparkie says...

The Waitrose range seems to be pushing this trend in the right direction. There are still a few products that highlight the lack of meat but things like the bbq mushrooms, the marinated seitan cubes and the Fiorelli are what the market is looking for, a step towards high quality convenience.

The veg pots and side pots are exactly the kind of of product I mean with this. They do not push that the meat is missing because they weren’t designed with replacement in mind. The snack range also stands out as being fairly novel. It’s perfectly on trend with the health claims and provides new options that didn’t exist before. Snacking saw big growth last year so it’s surprising to not see more products targeting this shared market from other retailers.

You can tell that whole foods already lives in this market. The new range is small in comparison but it provides a handful of new convenient products that are really there to make lives easier in a busy world. I like the sea cakes because it is a meat replacement product that does not need to yell about it - because of the simple things like the name, it’s more likely to inspire meat consumers to give it a go. The sauces provide that convenience that has been previously lacking in the vegan/vegetarian market.

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