More than 580,000 people sign-up to try a vegan diet in January as part of the global Veganuary campaign.
With the backing of celebrities like Jane Goodall, Paul McCartney and Ricky Gervais, and support from retailers, restaurants and food manufacturers, more people are looking for ways to reduce their meat intake, including a surprising number of meat-loving South Africans.
Beyond the ethics
Traditionally, messaging around eating less animal products came primarily from animal rights activists, focusing on ethical arguments for not eating animals.
However, the impact of the 2021 Veganuary campaign clearly shows that trends are shifting. There is now more focus on the many additional benefits associated with eating a predominantly plant-based diet as messaging hits the mainstream media with more emphasis on highlighting the available alternatives to animal products.
ProVeg South Africa, the official local NGO partner for Veganuary, highlights five key benefits of adopting a predominantly plant-based diet, namely:
- Food justice
According to the organisation’s director, Donovan Will, awareness of these benefits has been a key driver in the popularity of plant-based diets.
“Our research shows that the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and then the environmental benefits, are the main reasons that South Africans are becoming interested in moving towards a more plant-based diet”.
Despite there being so many benefits of eating a more plant-based diet, Will suggests that there’s another factor that may be playing a significant role in the growth of the plant-based movement.
READ MORE: 8 Common Myths About Veganism – BUSTED
Don’t compromise on taste
“Taste is still the leading factor that determines what people eat, so even after finding out about the benefits of a plant-based diet, many people won’t make a change unless they have an alternative that they enjoy as much as meat, so I think it’s fair to say that the increase in the availability and quality of alternatives that mimic the taste and texture meat is playing a huge role in getting people to move towards a more plant-based lifestyle.”
The Veganuary campaign in South Africa is indicative of the changes in the movement. With household names like Pick n Pay, Food Lovers Market, John Dory’s and Hudsons getting behind the campaign, it has officially hit the mainstream. And all of these players were promoting great tasting alternative products.
Nicki Russell, head of product merchandise at Pick n Pay says: “We are noticing more customers experimenting with plant-based alternatives. They want a greater choice that is more accessible and at affordable prices, so we have stepped up to deliver that. Last year we piloted dedicated plant-based destinations in selected stores – across fresh, frozen and pantry items – and it proved very popular. This year we will expand our plant-based range of PnP own brand, as well as work with other brands to bring customers more exciting products, such as the Oumph! and LikeMeat products.”
Although plant-based food is currently a global trend, it seems clear that campaigns like Veganuary are having a direct influence on the food industry.
Restaurants cater to the trend
A prime example of this is Hudsons – The Burger Joint. Ross Collins, one of the owners of Hudsons actually did Veganuary in 2018.
“Veganuary is personal to me as the owner of Hudsons as we always had a vegan burger on the menu but the excitement only really hit me when I did a Veganuary in 2018. This opened up a whole new world of eating options for me that I never knew were possible,” says Ross.
Supporting sustainable health
The influence of this movement isn’t limited to meat alternatives. Food Lovers Market ran multiple Veganuary specials, including discounts on Almond Breeze. John Dory’s introduced vegan sushi for Veganuary, using plant-based Prawn-Style Pieces made by Durban-based meat replacement firm The Fry Family Food Co.
Fry’s, a global sponsors for the 2021 Veganuary campaign, have been selling plant-based products in South Africa for 30 years. They were not surprised to see so many large companies offering more plant-based options and embracing the campaign.
“South African consumers are understanding more and more that plant-based foods are an important part of a sustainable future, not just environmentally, but for their health too – and this is starting to reflect in the choices that future forward brands are making,” says Tammy Fry, Director at Fry’s.
Other local supporters of Veganuary included B-Well Foods, makeers of egg-free mayonnaise; V-Foods, importers of the Violife Vegan Cheese Range and Nature’s Charm, which has alternatives like coconut custard and oat milk-based condensed milk; Outcast Foods, makers of healthy falafel and flapjack pre-mixes; Liquid Concepts, importers of the Lab Milk range of plant-based milks and produce a range of vegan frappe mixes; and Rugani Juices, which produces juices that can count as one of your daily servings of veggies.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.