BY ALEXIS EYRE
HEAD OF MARKETING, FIVE BY FIVE
By the first week of 2019, over 190,000 people had signed up for Veganuary. For the first 31 days of the year, they’d pledged to abstain from all animal produce, no matter how tasty it looked.
It seems every brand is clamouring for a piece of the dairy-free pie as market share gets hotter under this relatively tiny demographic.
But brands could do well to tread with caution when launching into vegan territory. Otherwise, they risk compromising their integrity.
In the UK, veganism has gained popularity in recent years by becoming more accessible. Agility and an ethos based around constantly listening to consumers, and then adapting rapidly, are key characteristics of a successful vegan launch.
This is why it’s essential, not just in new product development, but through the entire pre and post-launch process, for brands to always question what they’re doing. Where does their product fit? What USP can it possibly have in such a tight corner of the market?
For example, Oumph! launched in 2015 and identified its gap in the market by introducing a product which falls between ‘healthy’ and ‘junk’ soy food, offering a texture that genuinely chews like meat. It also appealed to wider audiences through its lack of overtly vegan messaging – this lends it universal appeal, as people still remain sceptical of veganism – just recently, there were calls to remove Veganuary ads in Shropshire, claiming it was ‘fake news of vegangalists.’
Secondly, instead of focusing on animal welfare or health, the back of the packaging hammers home the environmentally friendly impact of Oumph! – something carnivores and herbivores alike can rally around, from zero-plastic pledges to locally sourced meat to complete abstinence from animal products.
The promise of taste, price and convenience are equal driving factors to ethics when it comes to the vegan trend. Sainsbury’s launched its ‘Eat Grub’ range last year, which caused a stir for the wrong reasons. The snack, which was literally dried-up crickets in Smoky BBQ, Sweet Chilli & Lime and Peri-Peri flavours, was viewed as too ‘out-there’ to be taken seriously. It’s environmentally friendly, apparently it tastes good, it’s available in Sainsbury’s and it’s only £1.50.
But the way it was framed – something exotic, a little bit weird – was enough to put people off and ensure it becomes nothing more than a novelty.
That taste, price and convenience combination was perfected by Greggs earlier this month, though. Launching its vegan sausage roll with a ludicrous smartphone spoof trailer – ‘10 Mega Bites’ and ‘User Interface: Into User’s Face’ being a couple of the highlights – it benefited from Veganuary because it offered people something they could get easily, and it wasn’t too exotic. It was a sausage roll. The publicity from Piers Morgan didn’t do any harm, either.
If consumer packaged goods take anything from this, it’s the fact that people sometimes don’t always want to be ‘foodies’. They’re not always after an adventure. They want food, they need food, and if it fits into their lifestyle choices, all the better for the both of you.
Veganuary isn’t a vegan takeover, nor is it the meat and dairy’s opportunity to trash its plant-based competitors. It’s about making food more accessible for more consumers, and positioning your launch as more than just another alternative.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020