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Retail Trends: The Impact of Vegan Sausage Rolls for Retailers and Brands

Charlotte Malbasa, Client Development Manager, at Threefold comments on the latest news and trends within the world of retail.

It’s 2020 and I’ve just eaten my first vegan sausage roll having bucked the trend in 2019. While tempted by the vegan ‘steak’ bake, my typical Greggs visit wouldn’t be the same had I not consumed something that resembled a sausage roll.

Plant-based alternatives and Vegans have been around for yonks, but as we enter a new decade and awareness about our impact on the planet increases, the demand for plant-based foods has significantly increased. It’s hard to argue that Greggs hasn’t impacted this demand with their Apple-like launch into the U.K. market and this year, the Co-op have estimated that the vegan market is worth a whopping £1bn every year.

It’s no wonder then, that so many retailers and brands are throwing themselves head-first into the market to take a slice of the (probably raw) cake.

The Co-op have taken the biggest leap, with their latest own-brand range, Gro, housing 35 new products available in 300 Co-op stores across the country. Selected lines are subsequently available in an additional 2000 stores and 4000 independent NISA stores in the U.K. And it’s not only Gro that will be promoting vegan lines; 2020 will see all of the Co-op’s own-brand beer and cider ranges becoming vegan, sitting alongside the 120 vegan wines already available.

Having seen their biggest Christmas to date for vegan options (+40% uplift YoY), Waitrose are adding more than 30 new products across their own-brand and supplier branded ranges, doubling their offering.

Understanding the challenging U.K. retail environment, retailers and brands alike have acknowledged the opportunity posed by the plant-based movement; capitalising on seasonal opportunities such as Veganuary to launch exciting new products for shoppers. In the post-Christmas haze, it also presents the perfect opportunity to retain new shoppers from Christmas who are seeking healthy alternatives in a bid to hit those New Year Resolutions.

As a shopper, stumbling across new products is always exciting. And, speaking as a former M&S Food chick (shout out to the fresh veg stackers!), it’s all you would overhear shoppers talking about in the aisles. More often than not, this would be due to a curious looking ingredient featured front and centre of the packaging… i.e. ‘What is a jackfruit?’

I, for one, had no clue until this month.

But thank you, Aldi, for the education.

All of this buzz around Veganuary and new products begs the question; if the demand in plant-based alternatives is growing so significantly in the Grocery market, is Veganuary on the verge of becoming the plant-based Christmas? And should we start to look forward to new products in the same way that I look forward to M&S’ Turkey Feast Sandwich at Christmas every year?

At this stage, it’s probably still a tad too early to say, but my gut tells me that at the start of the next decade, we’ll be all over a vegan roast sandwich with alfalfa.

Between now and 2030, our interpretation of what the ‘Roaring 20s’ is, will become somewhat skewed, instead experiencing the ‘Raw-ing 20s’. Terrible play on words, I get it.

But the point stands.

We’ll see savvy retailers taking full advantage of the opportunity that has been presented to them; widening their own-brand ranges but also, balancing their aisles and partnering with like-minded supplier brands to present shoppers with as much variety as possible. While there is a worry that one can have too much jackfruit, if retailers and supplier brands can work together to diversify their product offering, the incremental £1bn is on the table amidst the ‘raw-ing’ 20s.

Co-branded events to maximise this opportunity and create a clear point of difference becomes increasingly more important and retailers need to provide the option for their suppliers to become more and more involved. It’s also another opportunity for savvier retailers still (!) to generate even more incremental funding from seasonal events with their supplier brands.


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