Sandwiches key as Veganuary sales smash records

Food Spark looks at the major retail and foodservice sales figures from Veganuary 2020

20 February 2020
food-to-gomeat alternativeplant-basedsandwichesstatisticssupermarkets

It’s now been three weeks since the biggest Veganuary the country has ever seen, with a record 400,000 signups reported by the organisation (compared to the 25,000 to sign up in 2019).

"With the link between animal farming and the climate crisis making headlines nearly every day we expected Veganuary 2020 to be the biggest yet, but it exceeded all of our expectations,” said Toni Vernelli, Veganuary’s head of communications.

Earlier this month, Tesco became the first major retailer to reveal just how big of an impact Veganuary had on their sales for the month, with the demand for plant-based wraps and sandwiches rising nearly 75% when compared to the 2019 edition of the vegan initiative.

Tesco also said that sales of plant-based sandwich meal deals were up by an impressive 130%. The supermarket cited an evolution of vegan trends, with the takeaway lunch market in particular seen as the major driver for their sales growth.

Many other major retail and fast casual players have now followed suit in revealing impressive Veganuary figures, with the sales of meat substitutes and on-the-go lunch options soaring across the board.

Sandwich successes

According to market analysts Kantar, supermarket sales of meat substitutes such as soya mince and veggie burgers rose by 14% during Veganuary, with lentils sales increasing by 6%.

While stats like these are to be expected during a month of UK-wide vegan curiosity, the skyrocketing of sandwich sales was arguably was not.

Along with Tesco, Sainsbury’s have reported remarkable increases in sales of its vegan sandwiches (up 35% year-on-year compared to January 2019). The supermarket also saw sales of their on-the-go vegan range rise by 23% in the same timeframe.

Waitrose, meanwhile, reported a 20% sales growth on last Veganuary for their entire vegan and vegetarian range (which includes wraps, salads and snacks).

Veganuary was also more of an own-brand battle ground this year for supermarkets than ever before, with almost all of the major retailers launching (or expanding) ranges in time for the initiative.

Tesco's Plant Chef falafel and houmous wrap

And, says Kantar, it was worth the effort.

“More than twice as many consumers bought one of the supermarkets’ explicitly labelled plant-based products in January 2020 compared with the festivity-filled December 2019,” read their report.

Tesco said the most popular item during Veganuary was their Plant Chef own-brand falafel and houmous wrap, with Tesco’s director of plant-based innovation Derek Sarno telling Food Spark that “convenience, affordability and desirability” were the key drivers for their Veganuary, and in their vegan food development going forward. 

Marks and Spencer, meanwhile, unleashed over 100 new vegan products into stores last month and saw success with their much-lauded Plant Kitchen range additions. Their vegan ‘no’ chicken kievs (made from soya protein) reportedly sold at a rate of four every minute after going on sale.

Their overall fruit and veg sales rose by almost 10% year-on-year, with mushrooms up an impressive 25%.

“Unprecedented demand”

The eating out sector was also significantly affected by the success of last month’s Veganuary, with Leon revealing that their meat alternative products now make up almost 60% (up from 44% in 20019) of their total sales, with vegan burger sales rising from 41.3% to 56.8% in January.

These figures mean that vegan options are now outselling their meat counterparts at the fast food chain, with a survey conducted by the company last month revealing that health and environmental concerns are the key reasons for their customers when choosing to reduce their meat consumption.

Pret a Manger, meanwhile, have seen serious success for their Veganuary-launched vegan croissant, which has been selling twice as many a day as their non-vegan jam croissant.

“In January, our vegan classics … saw record sales, increasing by 17% year on year,” the company said. “In particular, customers have switched to our vegan BLT, the VLT, made with roasted shiitake mushroom “rashers”, with sales up by 25%.”

On the manufacturing side of the industry, Quorn, who hit the headlines at the turn of the year for producing the “bespoke” plant-based protein for KFC’s debut in the vegan fast food realm (as well as Gregg’s vegan steak bake), reported “unprecedented demand” during Veganuary an struggled to keep up with demand.

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