Veganuary 2024: Success or failure?

By Augustus Bambridge-Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

The campaign showed success, in spite of the setbacks linked to the declining plant-based market and the cost-of-living crisis. Image Source: Getty Images/ArtMarie
The campaign showed success, in spite of the setbacks linked to the declining plant-based market and the cost-of-living crisis. Image Source: Getty Images/ArtMarie

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Veganuary has historically led to a significant uptick in consumption of vegan food products. However, with the plant-based sector in decline, and a cost-of-living crisis sweeping much of the world, can the early-year vegan fervour continue apace?

‘Veganuary’ takes place each year in the period of abstinence after Christmas that also involves ‘Dry January​’. With animal products being a prime example of something consumers are looking to give up, it would seem likely that such an event would mean a correlative increase in the consumption of plant-based meat and dairy.

Yet with the slowdown​, or ‘shakedown​’, of the plant-based meat category in 2023, and the cost-of-living crisis putting a strain on the wallets of so many consumers, did 2024’s Veganuary sales survive in their former glory?

Judging campaign success

Veganuary is not just a broad-brush name for a dietary trend, but a formal campaign. Toni Vernelli, international head of policy and communications at the campaign, does not believe that the cost-of-living has had a significant impact on vegan diets in general, but leads consumers to move away from more expensive​ brands, and even products such as plant-based meat.

“The cost-of-living crisis has not diminished people’s desire to buy eco-friendly products; they have simply shifted away from some of the brand-named plant-based products to own-label products or more wholefood items such as lentils, chickpeas, baked beans, and tofu which are incredibly inexpensive – especially when compared to meat,” she told FoodNavigator.

Private label​ plant-based brands have proliferated in the past few years. According to Kantar data, in 2023 supermarkets saw a 21% uplift in sales across their own-brand plant-based ranges during Veganuary. "Due to increased consumer demand, Aldi launched its biggest-ever vegan range and its frozen Plant Menu range saw a massive 200% increase in sales on Veganuary 2022. Asda launched two new vegan brands – OMV! and Plant Based by Asda."

Participation levels were high for 2024, with 1.8m people globally trying vegan as a result of the campaign. Last year, 700,000 signed up on the campaign’s website (however, this is judged differently from the 1.8m figure which considers all engagement with Veganuary’s materials).

But as Vernelli points out, most people who ‘do Veganuary’, meaning give up animal products for January, will not register for the formal campaign. Therefore, the numbers may well be much higher. According to YouGov polls analysed by the campaign, the number of people participating in the general Veganuary trend are estimated at 25m globally.

“We are generally seeing a huge amount of interest in the campaign from individuals all over the world to thousands of companies joining in to launch and promote vegan foods, to over 10,000 media articles published about Veganuary during the campaign year. In some countries this interest seems comparable to previous years, in other countries we are seeing a huge increase in interest, for example in Germany,” Ria Rehberg, Veganuary’s CEO, told FoodNavigator.

Success, failure or somewhere in between?

The crucial question, then, seems to be whether this year’s Veganuary saw a drop in sales from previous years’, especially for plant-based manufacturers.

Meat successes

In 2022​, research from the University of Surrey found that while Veganuary successfully boosted the sale of plant-based food, it didn’t impact the sales of meat at all.

“We've seen a c25% increase in sales so far in January, including one of our biggest weeks ever, driven by our in-store activations and people wanting to try more products in January,” Any Shovel, co-founder of plant-based brand THIS told us earlier this year.  

THIS’s sales were up by 22% year on year from last Veganuary, Shovel told us. Despite the overall category decline, he remained optimistic.

“Veganuary is a great time to launch new products with many consumers trying more plant-based products, including some for the first time. The only thing to be aware of is that there is so much NPD in January that sometimes launches can be lost in the noise - but this can be mitigated by strong in-store and out-of-store marketing and promotions.”

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