When the term “vegan” was first coined, even vegetarians thought it was a marginal way of life. But the image of vegans as eccentric ascetics is now itself a marginal view.
More than a third of people in the UK are interested in going vegan, according to a new survey which shows the number of people on plant-based diets has skyrocketed in the past two years. Thirty-six percent of UK adults think eating a vegan or plant-based diet is “an admirable thing to do,” the YouGov survey found.
The poll, carried out on behalf of the organization Veganuary, which encourages people to try veganism in January, asked 2,079 adults about their attitude towards giving up animal products.
YouGov found that 8% of those surveyed said they were already on a plant-based diet. Previous estimates of the proportion of vegans in the UK put the number much lower – in 2019, the Vegan Society estimated that 600,000 adults, or just over 1% of the population, were vegans. Market research group Kantar said last year that 1.9% of households include at least one vegan.
Veganuary is promoted with a movie ad campaign featuring Succession‘s James Cromwell, which debuted in around 500 theaters across the country today.
Toni Vernelli, of the Veganuary organization, said: “As more and more people realize the incredible impact our food choices have on our daily well-being and the health of our planet, attitudes to regard for vegan consumption are changing. It’s incredibly exciting to see a third of Brits now interested in trying a vegan or plant-based diet, something that would have been inconceivable just a few years ago. “
Veganism was born in 1944 when some members of the British Vegetarian Society requested a place in the group’s newsletter for people who also avoided eggs and dairy products.
When the request was rejected, Donald Watson coined the term vegan and created a new quarterly publication with around 100 supporters, including George Bernard Shaw. He grew up slowly. In 2014, the Vegan Society was happy to announce that up to 150,000 people were vegans.
This was the starting point for what advocates call “the second wave of veganism”. Now every supermarket is dedicating space to its own plant-based ranges, vegan materials are entering fashion, and dozens of celebrities are embracing veganism. Cadbury followed food brands like Greggs by launching plant-based products – there is now a vegan Dairy Milk, with marzipan instead of milk. The Great British Cake Has been running vegan week tours since 2018 and featured the first vegan contestant, 19-year-old Freya Cox.
Part of the change in attitude is due to availability and convenience. Companies making fake meat burgers and home meal deliveries have been backed by venture capital, meaning more than 50,000 products are now certified by the Vegan Society. Supermarkets have plant-based Christmas lines, while star chefs like Jamie Oliver list dozens of vegan recipes on their websites.
Yet although one in eight home-cooked meals is now vegan, according to Kantar, with less than two-thirds of meals now including meat, most people who eat plant-based meals are not just vegans. but flexitarians.
However, two-thirds of meals in the UK still involve meat or fish, and the first Covid lockdown in 2020 led to a boom in meat consumption, with turkey sales up 36% in 2020 This has resulted in higher meat prices and less availability of meat due to demand.
Another lockdown-induced change – the growing number of pet owners – has led to a boom in vegan pet foods.
Judy Nadel and Damien Clarkson created The Pack last year and launched their first products in September.
“We could never have started this five years ago,” said Nadel. “We came up with the idea in 2018, but we knew we had to wait for the right time, because people have to make their own conscious decisions about their own lifestyle and diet before they start thinking about their pets. .
“I think the reason it got widespread is that there was an inclusive and non-judgmental approach, where people didn’t have to do it all at once and give up the meat,” a- she added. “Food, beauty and fashion innovations made the essay exciting. “
“I have been a vegan since 2013,” Clarkson said. “I had to stand up for myself at parties and social gatherings to explain why I was vegan, where I got my protein – I had to justify myself. I used to be ‘that guy, Damien, he’s a vegan’. I don’t understand this now because people have 20 or 30 friends who are vegans.