Earlier this week, Tesco revealed their sales stats for this year’s Veganuary, 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%.
“Until now most of the noise for vegan food - quite understandably – has been for meat-free alternatives to classics like burgers, sausages, and steaks,” said Tesco food to go buying manager, Cate May. “This year however, I think that with veganism and flexitarian diets becoming so popular, that it will have a major impact on the take-away lunchtime market and choices available”
One of the big retail success stories of last year was plant-based food manufacturer Fry’s Family Foods who recorded 211% sales growth over 2019, with the company claiming their year-on-year growth was among the highest recorded in the UK meat-free industry.
Fry’s rode the Veganuary wave in Tesco this year, having entered into the supermarket in December, with marketing manager Nicola Yates telling Food Spark that the chilled aisle - boosted by the aforementioned ‘dedicated lunchtime plant-based shopper’ - proved to be the main stage for their sales success.
Fry’s, who are available across retail, wholesale and foodservice channels, were founded back in 1991 and focused on producing meatless burgers and steaks.
Their focus, almost 30 years on, is now on manufacturing a range of fresh and frozen plant-based meat alternatives, with Yates remarking on the incredible growth of veganism over the past few years, culminating in this year’s Veganuary push.
“The back end of last year was fantastic – we experienced growth in all our channels,” says Yates.
“This was the year when Veganuary really captured the mass market – we in the industry really felt it this year. We’ve been talking about veganism being upcoming for years and it’s really mass market now.”
Fry’s released five chilled products and three frozen into Tesco in December, with Yates revealing that their vegan sausage roll was one of their standout successes.
“Our chilled pastry options have been hugely popular, especially the vegan sausage roll and the Mediterranean veg and squash slice,” explains Yates.
“This is partly down to flexitarian consumers, who want to eat meat-free more, looking for quick and easy options they can grab off the shelf while popping in on their lunch break, for example.”
Yates says that sausage rolls have become a bit of a hero product in the vegan space following significant launches in both retail and out-of-home, with Fry’s cottoning on to the massive growth in single and twin pack options.
“I think vegan sausage rolls really speak to consumers who still eat meat but want something recognisable as a viable vegan option,” says Yates.
“They’re symbolic of how the consumer is changing. Over the years, consumers have enjoyed meat style counterparts and now we’re able to get such a wide range of directly comparable products that are completely vegan. It’s made it a hell of a lot easier for curious consumers all round.”
Opportunities in ready meals?
Tesco’s Veganuary sales report shows that the majority of their success came via the chilled aisle, with Kantar stats from last summer revealing that 75% of Aldi and Lidl’s collective £344m growth from the previous year was predominantly attributed to the increase in sales from chilled.
And, with the growth of the aisle has come with the growth of the chilled meat-free category.
“Frozen meat-free was originally the larger sector as, five years ago, meat-free was quite niche. So, it sat quietly in the frozen section,” Yates explains.
“Now we’ve seen a massive boost in chilled NPD and the availability of chilled in terms of shelf visibility. And that growth has outstripped frozen and so chilled and frozen are about the same now in terms of meat-free.”
Fry’s, who also have existing listings in both Morrisons and Holland and Barrett, will be looking at evolving their chilled options in the new decade and suggest that vegan ready meals will be a particular growth area.
“Ready meals will be a big opportunity for growing vegan brands,” says Yates. “We’re also looking at new proteins and expansion in snacking and food to go – these are the development growth areas which are in line with wider consumer trends.
“People aren’t doing big frozen shops – they’re shopping chilled more than frozen and want to cook things the moment they get home or eat straight away.”