08/01/2021 – Veganuary / Wholesale / Catering / Vegetarian / Vegan / Brakes / Central Foods / Sodexo / Leathams
Vegan food sales soar in the wholesale and catering sectors
Vegan food sales aren’t just a boom segment for brands and high-street chains, it seems: In the lead-up to Veganuary 2021, wholesale and catering businesses are busy filling orders for vegan products and preparing their new Veganuary menu offerings as the popularity of vegan dishes soars in these industries.
While high-profile Veganuary launches like Gregg’s vegan sausage roll and KFC’s zero chicken burger make the headlines, food suppliers that operate out of public view are also observing a huge increase in demand for vegan products and dishes.
Matt Lake, Senior Product Development Manager and Innovation Lead at Brakes, told us that in the past two years the UK’s leading wholesale foodservice supplier has seen a 550-per-cent increase in searches for vegan products on its website, with nearly 110,000 filtered searches for such products since July this year alone.
An “increasingly lucrative sector”
“The growth in vegan products has been exponential, and it shows no signs of stopping, so we’ve developed a fantastic range of vegan products, which do not compromise on taste or quality and will help our customers take advantage of this increasingly lucrative sector,” advised Mr Lake. “It’s important, particularly in these difficult times, that we help our customers to capitalise on as many opportunities as possible and having a great vegan range is a vital part of that.”
Gordon Lauder, Managing Director of frozen food distributor Central Foods – which supplies into the food service sector – said that his firm has experienced a similar rise in demand: “More than 25 per cent of our product range is now vegan, and this has been fuelled by the astonishing growth in demand for plant-based products right across the board – from restaurants and bars, through to universities and schools.
“Sales of our vegan lines during Veganuary 2020 were up over 62 per cent compared to 2019,” he revealed. “Whilst this was due to increased demand, it’s also a reflection of the fact that these plant-based products really deliver on taste and flavour. If not, they wouldn’t have sold as well. Despite the pandemic, we’ve been working on some further tremendous vegan product development this year, resulting in our new plant-based range of everyday favourites – mince, sausages, burgers and meatballs – which work across all menus and offer some great nutritional benefits as well. These products are proving popular not just in schools and universities, but also in pubs, restaurants and cafés – and not just with their vegan customers, but also with flexitarians who are looking to cut down on their meat/dairy intake.”
“Plant-based consumption is here to stay”
Clive Moxham, Group Commercial Director at Leathams, said that his firm – a London-based food distributor supplying hotels, restaurants and retail – understood that “plant-based consumption isn’t just a fad, it’s here to stay. More and more consumers are becoming vegan-curious, upping their plant-base consumption and reducing their meat intake,” he told us.
“Grains can be used as a significant part of any plant-based diet or menu, so we will be launching a range of IQF grains, lentils and Green Chickpeas under our Merchant Gourmet brand, which are ideal for the caterer, salad manufacturers and quick service restaurants,” Mr Moxham revealed.
“Chefs Brigade ‘Plant Base’ will be launching a range of vegan products – including, cheese and meat alternatives, and targeting chefs in a busy kitchen environment in early 2021, to take advantage of Veganuary and the changing eating habits of consumers,” he continued. “Lots more to come here around all things ‘plant based’, which we’re really excited about.”
“Phenomenal” impact of Veganuary
Vegetarian Express has specialised in selling vegetarian and vegan ingredients to chefs for over three decades, yet growth in demand for vegan food has exploded in the last four years. “Our total sales grew by 60 per cent between 2017 and 2020,” revealed David Webster, the firm’s MD. “The impact of the Veganuary campaign has been phenomenal, and unlike most of the hospitality industry, January is our busiest month of the year, where we typically see sales soar by +80 per cent versus December.
“Responding to customer demand, we’ve rapidly been shifting the focus of our new product development and wider range towards vegan products – for example, we’ve launched 253 new vegan products since the start of 2019, and 93 per cent of the +1,200 products in our total range are now vegan,” he added.
Leading UK and Ireland caterer, Sodexo, is once again supporting Veganuary, with its sites across sectors and industries such as universities, government offices and corporate sites, boosting their daily offers with additional plant-based dishes available throughout January and beyond. “At Sodexo, we’re increasing the amount of plant-based meals available in our menus, both in response to growing consumer interest in vegan or flexitarian diets, and as part of our sustainability commitments,” advised David Mulcahy, Sodexo’s Culinary Ambassador.
“We look to incorporate some of the Future 50 Foods into our recipes wherever possible; that is, plant-based foods that have been identified by WWF and Knorr as being nutritious and having a lower impact on our planet,” he continued. “So this Veganuary, our customers can expect to find exciting and tasty plant-based meals on our restaurant and grab-and-go menus, such as our BBQ jackfruit rice bowl, scrambled tofu muffin, or Nochicken shawarma wrap, which we hope will encourage customers to introduce more vegan foods into their diets.”
The rise of the conscious-consumer
Commenting on this positive movement in the wholesale and catering sector, Toni Vernelli, Veganuary’s Head of Communications, says: “Whether driven by concerns for the planet or health improvements, one thing is certain – veganism is a trend that keeps on trending. It’s great to see companies in every food sector embracing this opportunity and providing tasty, satisfying, sustainable options for the growing number of conscious-consumers.”
Veganuary 2021 is on course to be the biggest yet. More than 250,000 people have already officially signed-up to take part this year, marking the halfway point to the ambitious 500,000 target.