Has the vegan bubble burst?
2018 saw more vegan and meat-less products launched into the UK that anywhere else in the world (crazy!) but how does it look 5 years later? With an estimated 2-3% of the UK opting for a vegan diet, you would think the answer would be yes, however some recent studies have unveiled some facts and figures that we are going to delve into!
There's no denying the vegan market is overcrowded, shelves are quite literally bursting with meatless products and for some this alone is overwhelming enough to decide not to follow through with the diet. Not only that, the price on these products are sometimes astronomical and in the midst of a cost-of-living-crisis, people simply cannot afford to pay the hefty prize tags!
Another incredibly concerning study we have recently come across is the health concerns surrounding ultra-processed foods - You're wondering what ultra-processed foods are, right? Ultra-processed foods typically have five or more ingredients. They tend to include many additives and ingredients that are not typically used in home cooking, such as preservatives, emulsifiers, sweeteners, and artificial colours and flavours. So why are plant-based products processed so much? Sophie Medlin, Dietician and Chair of the British Dietetic Association for London explains - “Ultimately, meat and fish are never going to be a processed food, because they are a single ingredient food. When we get into trying to replicate them from plant products, we are definitely going to have to process them in order for them to look and feel and taste in any way palatable… The more you’re trying to make something imitate something that it’s not, the more processing it’s going to have to go through.”
A lot of Vegan and plant-based products also contain Soya, which has recently been linked to climate damage. Most soya comes from the Americas and nearly half from just two countries, Brazil and Argentina. Growth of the soya industry has been meteoric – production in Brazil has quadrupled in just 20 years. Huge tracts of the forests in South America have been lost at the hands of the expanding soya industry. Let's take a look at some of the biggest environmental impacts posed by industrial soy production;
Deforestation - As an annual crop, soy plants only produce one yield in each life cycle and are virtually unresponsive to fertilisers. What this means is simple: to increase yield and meet demand, more soy has to be planted, which requires more land.
Threatened Biodiversity - As huge swathes of land are converted, habitats are lost and vital ecosystems destroyed, triggering wide-scale biodiversity loss.
Carbon Emissions - The global trade and production of soy doesn’t just impact biodiversity, it also affects Earth’s climate, generating significant amounts of greenhouse gases.
However, with that being said it is not just vegan products that are to blame for the demand, a huge proportion of Soya is actually used to feed animals, including cows, pigs and chickens, so in theory even meat-eaters are at fault!
There have also been a lot of questions raised recently around the health benefits of a vegan diet. Is it really good for you? The short and simple answer is yet, when planned correctly a vegan diet is just as nutritious as a meat diet. One deficiency vegans must manage is a lack of vitamin B12, which is found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy, but not in fruit or vegetables. It plays an essential role in the production of red blood cells and the functioning of the nervous system, so it is recommended that vegans obtain B12 from fortified foods or vitamin supplements.
While it is claimed the global vegan market may be as worth as much as £50bn by 2030, sales of many products in the UK have flatlined or fallen. Innocent Drinks, owned by Coca-Cola, announced in March it was discontinuing its dairy-free coconut, almond and hazelnut smoothies after disappointing sales. Sausage maker Heck announced earlier this month it was reducing its range of meat-free products from 10 to just 2. So, has the vegan bubble really burst??
Georgina Williams, Marketing Assistant.