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With veganism the buzzword of the moment, we take a look at how this movement and the rise of social consciousness has gained such quick momentum within the food & drink industry.
Love it or loathe it, veganism is here to stay. The vegan market presents a massive opportunity for businesses – Waitrose reported a five-fold increase in searches for vegan food on its website – and we’re already seeing major players like Sainsbury’s launch vegan ranges. With 542,000 vegans in the UK, more than three times as many as a decade ago, it’s a customer base which businesses cannot ignore.
But what’s the cause of this significant growth and how can businesses tap into it?
Beyond leading a healthier lifestyle, the move to go vegan is driving an interest in animal welfare and being environmentally sustainable. While there are many reasons to follow a vegan diet, being socially conscious seems to be one of the main interests steering this uptake.
As a concept, social consciousness spans across several trends including a greater focus on CSR initiatives, buying local and healthy eating. The notion of doing and promoting socially good environmental initiatives can be seen, for example, in the recent drive against single-use plastic.
Widespread coverage on the impact single-use plastics are having on the environment has led to many businesses implementing CSR policies to help tackle this issue. These include companies banning the use of plastic straws within their premises and brands like BRITA Professional campaigning to make the single-use plastic bottle as taboo as the plastic bag. This is something which is only going to grow in momentum and support, as the Government launch policies to decrease plastic waste levels and the consumer’ acceptance of the use of plastics lowers.
It’s predicted that the number of consumers choosing to eat out this year will increase by 83 million visits but if businesses aren’t tapping into trends like veganism and being more socially conscious, then there is a big risk of being left behind as the sector continues to grow.
Although there are some challenging times ahead with the implications of Brexit, there are many opportunities to be had for those who embrace the change and the new trends which emerge as a result. Creativity, honesty and engaging communication with customers will support businesses in this competitive market and meet the consumer demand for socially and environmentally responsible dining experiences.
 The Telegraph, 31 December 2017 www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/12/31/veganuary-becomes-latest-new-year-trend/
 Vegan Society, 2017
 NPD Group, November 2017