Great-Britain, new market opportunities for vegan and vegetarian products


As demonstrations in favor of cruelty-free processes in the farming industry and calls to reduce our meat consumption are multiplying across the world no one can deny the huge trend of vegetarianism and veganism. Over the past century, Great-Britain has made itself the standard bearer of this new way of consuming. Beyond the ethical aspect, veganism and vegetarianism represent new economic opportunities for mass distribution and brands. How does this market create new opportunities?

A real lifestyle

Let’s quickly clarify the two concepts. First of all, vegetarianism is a diet free from meat, fish included. On the other hand, veganism involves cutting out animal products from our meals. From food like eggs and dairy products it also includes products like leather shoes or bags and every product that are tested on animals. Veganism was born in the Great-Britain a few decades ago. This particular diet is a lifestyle there as evidenced by The Vegan Society, the Vegan Life Magazine or even the Vegan Festival and many other events for vegans. The term vegan was in fact invented by Donald Watson, the co-founder of The Vegan Society in 1944 even if this diet has existed since Antiquity. The Vegan Society is very well-known in Great-Britain as it is the first association fighting for animal lives there.

In 2018 in Great-Britain, 11% of the people are vegetarians against less than 2% in France and Portugal. In 2016, about half a million British people were vegan. In total, the number of vegetarians and vegans is about 1700 000 in Great-Britain therefore the vegetarian and vegan products’ range is much more developed there. In almost every restaurant you can find some vegetarian or vegan meals, which are identified with a green V on the menu contrary to France or Portugal where there are almost only meals with meat.

Social media play a big part in the rise of the plant-based lifestyle. #vegan has more than 61 million posts listed on Instagram. Celebrities like Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus and Ellen DeGeneres are some of the well-known figures who don’t eat animal products. Taking all of this into account, the market analyst Kantar said 2018 was the year veganism goes mainstream.


Behind the vegetarian and vegan trend, is a real ethic: animals are full-fledged beings, they feel pain just like humans and so have to be treated like them. Animal pain is intolerable and so is their exploitation. Thus, it is the all farming industry that is pointed out: slaughterhouses, dairies, laying hen farming... Many farmers say it is becoming more and more difficult to do their job as vegan virulently criticized them and regularly demonstrate across Great-Britain to stop animals’ pain and murders. Every product that requires to kill animals or to use them in any way is banned by vegans.

With the veganism comes the cruelty free movement against animal testing. Cosmetic brands testing their products on animal are denounced by vegans. Several British laboratories that kept animals in terrible health conditions have been reprimanded. For ethical reasons, numerous brands now claim in their advertisement or their packaging they don’t use animals for tests anymore. Lush an organic and vegetarian cosmetic brand created in 1995 in England, was one of the first brands « fighting animal testing » as it is written all over their kraft packaging.

Veganism and vegetarianism, the diet of the future?

In 2050, the world population will reach the number of 9,7 billions according to the demographic forecasts, namely 2 billions more than today. The food processing industry won’t be able to provide meat for all of the demand. Considering that 13.500 liters of water is needed to produce 2,2 lbs of meat whereas 590 liters of water is needed to produce 2,2 lbs of wheat and that water is a more and more rare resource, we will have no choice but to reduce our meat consumption in the future, or worst, do not eat meat anymore. Not only will it save water but also prevent climate change. Indeed, cattle farming produces gas emissions. This is why meat-free diet is a much more sustainable one than eating meat.

Big companies in new technologies like Google truly believe that changing our food habits is one of the next big step of our societies. Thus, companies like Twitter invest a lot in start-ups that develop vegan products, just as Beyond Meat, a meat substitute start-up.

The mass retail plays the game

British supermarket chains have adapted their products range with more vegan options in order to keep up with the customer’s demand. Waitrose recently launched a dedicated vegan section in more than 130 shops and so does Tesco and Mark&Spencer while Iceland, a frozen food chain, reported that sales of its plant-based food have risen by 10% over the last year. Also, meat- free ready meals sales have grown by 15% in 2018, making the vegan version of this food very profitable for supermarkets. Tesco’s sales of vegan and vegetarian ready meals have grown by 40% in 2016. Vegan supermarket chains are blossoming since a decade with GreenBay or Whole Foods Market.

The competition between supermarkets and other vegan brands is real. From vegan corner shops (Holland & Barett...) to online shops (Alternative Store, RealFoods...), the distribution channels are multiple. Thus, the supermarkets bet on the quality of their products to distinguish itself and sections for their stores are dedicated not only to vegan and vegetarian food but also cosmetic products or clothes. They set up strategies to boost their sales. When a new meat-free product arrives on the shelves, tastings are organized for the customers. Some supermarket vegan products ranges are developed with chefs like Jamie Oliver, a British chef involved in making people eating and buying healthier food.

Vegan and vegetarian products, a cash cow for brands

Faced with the real craze for vegan and vegetarian products, the number of vegan and vegetarian brands in Great-Britain has boomed. According to the Vegan Society, between 2012 and 2016 there was a 185% increase in the number of vegan products launched in the UK. Many brands are specialized in one type of food with some in meat substitutes like Quorn and others in dairy-free products like Booja-Booja's which vegan frozen desserts are said to be delicious or Vego that sells vegan chocolate.

Furthermore, among the 12 vegan labels that exist in Europe 1/4 are British due to the numerous vegan brands there. The commercial outlets are real: added to the regular customers are the flexitarians a.k.a people who switch between vegan or vegetarian meals and meat. In order to reach more customers, several brands removed animal products from their recipe. Haribo sells soft candies free from pork gelatin. Last year, the beer brewer Guinness stopped using fish bladders in its brewing process, after two and a half centuries.

The UK market for meat-free foods was reportedly worth £572m in 2017. Vegan and vegetarian products are super trendy, as retail sales are expected to increase to £658m by 2021.

The British market is very profitable to vegan and vegetarian products. For the sake of the producers, selling vegan and vegetarian products in Great-Britain can be a strategic choice as it clearly entails economic benefits. Other food industry markets like the French one are also interesting for vegan and vegetarian products. As the few brands there are not covering all the demand, many vegan products are imported from the UK. This is a chance for French and foreign producers to sell their products in France. As a Junior-Enterprise we are fully committed to help entrepreneurs and companies to sell their products in France and foreign. Click on this link to see the services we offer: Launch your activity