It was around five years ago that veganism became a "thing". Its not that veganism was invented five years ago, its more that being vegan was suddenly popular, or at least widely talked about. Tesco was one of the first companies to embrace the vegan market with the launch of it's brand Wicked Kitchen, after that came the Greggs sausage roll...
Vegan Market Value
In 2018 the vegan market, that is the amount of money vegan products were generating, was worth around $14 billion worldwide, it is estimated that this will have grown to nearly $32 billion by 2026, according to Allied Market Research.
The number of vegans has also grown across the world, but Europe is the largest market of meat substitutes in the world. The UK, Germany, France, and other countries in Western Europe, are selling less meat products, pigs are being culled because there isn't enough demand for pork products, cheese is left to rot as more people choose dairy-free options. At the same time the vegan prepared foods and fast food market has become an area of competition. Products like canned mock meats, ready meals, burgers, pizza, sausages and meat free meatballs are selling in huge numbers. Big meat-free brands, such as Quorn Foods and Cauldron Foods are increasing production to keep up with demand, but now companies from the meat food industry such as Rugenwalder Muhle and Richmond are starting to sell meat-free products, and this includes the fast food industry.
In January 2019 Greggs, the UK's largest bakery chain, launched their vegan sausage roll. The original pork sausage roll had always been popular,1.5m pork sausage rolls are sold every week. The meat-free version comes after 20,000 people signed a petition in 2018 that was started by animal welfare organisation Peta. The petition called for Greggs to produce a vegan version of its bestselling item. The new version has been designed to mirror some of the original’s classic features, including having 96 layers of puff pastry and tasting almost the same as the original. The real surprise, though, came not from the taste, but the popularity, Greggs couldn't bake them fast enough to keep the shelves stocked and the vegan sausage roll sold out. Interest in Greggs products went so high that the company was saved after a profit warning the previous spring. Since then the company's share price has continued to climb, reaching a peak in January 2022. This story is being used a business model by many companies hoping to use vegan money to increase profits. Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominoes and more are increasing the availability of vegan products.
Do These Companies Actually Care?
Increasing awareness of how food choices impact health outcomes has lead to more companies trying to make money from selling products that seem healthier. The same is happening with the growing knowledge of how our decisions as consumers affects the environment, veganism feeds into both ideas. This doesn't mean that these companies actually want to help to make the world a better place. Going by press releases, Greggs takes the ethical stance of trying to help in many ways, they have a scheme for employing people that would otherwise become homeless, 28/09/21, they moved to using only fairtrade chocolate, 12/08/21. McDonalds is working to reach net zero in carbon emissions and reduce the use of plastic, while Burger King seems to like to talk about how cheap their meat products are. So, do these companies truly care about the animals? No, if they did they would be 100% vegan and that's not going to happen, at least not anytime soon. Do they care about people's health? Again, no, if they cared they would reduce the fat, sugar and salt content of their products. There would be more healthy options. McDonalds has removed salads from their menu, not a change that is going to improve anyone's health.
Overall, the availability of these products, sausage rolls, burgers, cakes and more, are a step in the right direction. Vegans have more options to choose from when they are out, less animals are suffering, in theory. The process of reducing animal exploitation and suffering long, this is one part of that and it is definitely a positive one.