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Published January 24th 2020

Which Brand Won Veganuary? Consumers Give Their Verdict

Fast food seized its chance to smash into the growing vegan market, but only one can come out on top. Get ready for Vegan Wars 2020.

‘Veganuary’ has skyrocketed in popularity this year, with 24.2 million mentions online so far this year.

The campaign challenges participants to be vegan for a month, and has attracted roughly 350K participants this year. It aims to raise awareness of the benefits of veganism, like lower emissions, and saved water.

It’s no wonder the campaign is popular – there are more vegans now than ever, with 6% of US consumers declaring they were vegan in 2019 (compared to just 1% in 2014), and in Britain the number of vegans has reportedly quadrupled since 2014.

As people convert, so does their buying power. Research from The Good Food Institute in July 2019 reported U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods had grown 11% since 2018, bringing the total plant-based market value to $4.5 billion. In the same period, the US retail market had grown just 2% in dollar sales.

Plant-based foods are now a key driver of growth and, it appears, fast food is the next battleground.

But who won the fast food wars of 2020?

More than 200 new vegan products and menus were launched for 2019’s challenge, according to Veganuary.

And, in the UK, Vegan takeaways are now the UK’s fastest growing takeout choice, increasing 388% between 2016 and 2018, according to research from the British Takeaway Campaign.

This year I noticed so many UK fast food chains smashing headlines selling out of their Veganuary releases that I had to investigate – which one was rated highest by consumers?

I looked at the brands seeming to get the most traction in the media, and then looked at the social data around how people were reacting to the various product releases:

The vegan fast food war: January 2020

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research | 1 - 23 Jan 2020

Greggs laughed in the face of competition, raking in 176K mentions with their new vegan stake bake and glazed ring donut, as well as a bean wrap and soup.

Consumers on social particularly enjoyed the steak bake’s pastry coating.

But this is not the first time the Northern bakery chain dominated our news feeds. Greggs released their vegan sausage roll back in January 2019 following strong consumer demand, including a PETA petition in 2018 which was signed by more than 20,000 people.

It was a major success, with 21.3k mentions on the premiere date. People couldn’t get their hands on the rolls with the rate they were flying off of the shelves, and there was a major debate on social about the name of the roll that was boosted by TV chat show coverage.

Greggs’ vegan sausage roll was a huge part of the company’s success in 2019, and they gifted their hardworking 25,000 employees with a bonus of up to £300 this January to celebrate their impressive financial results.

Greggs' vegan range mentions 2019 - 2020

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research | 1 Jan 2019 - 23 Jan 2020

In the shadow of Greggs’ social success lies Mcdonald’s Veggie Fingers (3.8K mentions), KFC’s Original Recipe Vegan Burger (23K mentions), and Subway’s Meatless Marinara (6.9K.)

The most controversial release was Burger King’s Rebel Whopper, with 5K mentions. Many were outraged after it emerged the plant-based burger was not suitable for vegetarians, as it may be cooked on the same grill as meat burgers.

These mentions just go to show the age old tale is true: quality is better than quantity (though Greggs managed to get both).

Customers know best

There appears to be no slow down in the rise of veganism, with the number of people opting for a vegan lifestyle growing.

For brands that took notice of the growing trend and acted, the results speak for themselves. Not only has Greggs made lots of existing customers happy, it was able to win business from a growing vegan community and give back to their hard working staff.

Brace yourself for  more vegan-friendly treats – the competitive space of fast food just got even more intense.

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