salad with chicken strips, leaves. and pomegranate

The surprising rise of flexitarianism and veganism

salad with chicken strips, leaves. and pomegranate

10 years ago, the thought of only eating a plant-based diet was almost laughable. Just 150,000 people followed a vegan diet, less than half a percent of the population. Fast forward to 2018 and the number of vegans in Britain has grown to over half a million people.


Drivers of this massive trend include consumers concerns with animal welfare, the environment and health aspects. Whatever might be causing it, veganism is fast gaining wheels, even more so with celebs such as Beyonce and Brad Pitt spurring people on. But for those who still enjoy a bacon sarnie on a Saturday morning and aren’t quite ready to take the full plunge just yet, Flexitarianism has proved a popular choice for a whopping 41% of the population, over 22 million. The perfect middle ground between meat eaters and vegans, it provides the flexibility to switch between carnivore and herbivore as you please.


With more and more individuals jumping aboard this trend it is undeniably snowballing across consumers, meaning high street chains and retailers are having to climb aboard too, and there are plenty examples of how businesses are adapting their offer to cater to this growing trend.

In food service and hospitality, many large chain businesses have expanded their menu with vegan offerings; Las Iguanas have an ‘ask for vegan’ option on several of their menu items, Zizzi have a mozzarella alternative for many of their pizzas and LEON has a number of vegan salad and wrap options to name a few.

LEON and Las Iguanas

Zizzi logo and pizza


Smaller businesses and individual restaurants are also following suit, Hall and Woodhouse pubs have launched the BLT replacement, TLT, with our very own Tofurky Tempah and Vegenaise. Several vegan specialty destinations are also appearing, especially in London; The Vurger Co. in Shoreditch offer a range of strictly vegan burgers and Redemption Bar in Shoreditch offers vegan everything, including all of their alcohol-free cocktails.

H&W, The Vurger and Redemption


In retail, Tesco will be launching the ‘bleeding’ vegan burger next month from US brand Beyond Meat, Sainsbury’s have launched a whole range of vegan suitable products, including mince and burgers and M&S now have a selection of vegan ice creams.

Surprisingly, none of the retailer’s products have been labelled ‘vegan’. Research shows that labelling products ‘meat free’ or ‘reduced meat’ is a big turn off, and calling something ‘vegan’ can cause sales to drop by as much as 70%. The vegan products that have been popping up more and more frequently often opt for ‘plant-based’ or ‘non-dairy’, to stop consumers from being put off by these terms.Tesco, Sainsbury's and M&S


So you can see here just a few of the many examples of vegan popping up in various bars, restaurants and supermarkets across the country. With such a growing number of people turning to flexitarian and veganism, we have to ask whether this is just a trend, soon to be forgotten like so many before it, or if this is more a shift in consumer behaviour and thinking. Could the vegan trend eventually fizzle out, or will we be seeing vegan begin to overtake meat and dairy’s portion on the shelf?