Veganism hit the scene in a big way over the past decade. You can't deny it; food brands, restaurants, and cafes were popping up everywhere, from vegan kebabs to plant-based patties, and we can’t forget the Gregg’s vegan sausage roll that got the big guys to jump in on the plant-based movement adding veggie to their menus in any way possible and it looked like it could not be stopped!
But it has not been all soybeans and roses post-pandemic; the vegan market has been rocked lately due to many unforeseen factors. However, some notable rumbles of a possible collapse include the closure of many vegan independent restaurants up and down the country. After a drop in sales, Innocent withdrew their dairy-free coconut hazelnut smoothie, sausage maker Heck said it would decrease meat-free products from ten to two and Beyond Meat stocks tumbled. Whilst the global vegan market is estimated to be worth as much as £50bn by 2030, sales in the UK have flattened… for the time being.
The media will have you believe that the fake meat industry has peaked and the decline in veganism and vegan products is imminent but let’s not take the scaremongering at face value. There are plenty of reasons why meat alternatives are struggling and why many vegan independent businesses are closing up shop. One of the main issues is the increased cost of living caused by the fallout of the pandemic. The prices for everything have risen, from food costs, utilities, interest rates, rent arrears, paying back covid loans, higher wages and changes in consumer spending habits leaving less disposable income to spend on eating out and “premium’ products.
Meat alternatives are often more expensive because startups and small businesses don’t have the same economies of scale to keep costs down which makes customers think twice before purchasing them, with many switching back to basics like beans and legumes for their source of protein.
The vegan market has become overcrowded, and customers are spoiled for options. When places like McDonald's and Papa John's didn't offer vegan options, customers had no choice but to shop with small vegan businesses to satisfy their cravings. In contrast, now, pretty much all the big chains offer vegan alternatives and at a much cheaper price point, which makes it harder for small businesses to compete and it’s not like vegan businesses can simply add meat to their menu to diversify their sales!
Yes, a few vegan businesses are closing but that’s just competition and how the market works, but don't let the media fool you into believing that the vegan fad is over. Pret A Manger's menu is still 60% veggie, Wagamama's is 50% plant-based, and Neat Burger, which has received support from celebrities like Lewis Hamilton and Leonardo DiCaprio, has secured funding of $18 million. Veganuary, the organisation that promotes veganism, had its biggest year yet in 2023. Over 700,000 people worldwide signed up to take part and the legends at VFC saved Meatless Farm from administration.
Veganism is experiencing a bump in the road and not through its own doing, it's here to stay and our planet still certainly needs it. Small vegan businesses can continue to thrive by staying lean, staying true to their values, engaging with customers, and offering great products and experiences. Loyalty for small businesses can be the difference between success and failure; remember; everybody loves supporting an underdog. What The Pitta is happy to be still part of this fantastic movement offering vegan kebabs in-store and through our ever-growing festival and event side of the business. So watch this space!
You can find us at these events this summer: