Brands navigate waning vegan appetite as veganism drops

Less people expect brands to be eco-friendly

New research from GWI has revealed that the number of people identifying as vegan has dropped by 29% in Europe and 15% in the UK in the last two years.

The annual Connecting the Dots 2024 report suggests that growing eco-fatigue and the cost-of-living crisis are among the top reasons for a decline in veganism and sustainability.

In 2019, a quarter of food products launched were labelled as vegan. Fast-forward to today and the appetite for veganism is waning, with 14% of European consumers switching to a self-described ‘flexitarian’ diet instead.

‘Vegan food’s addressable market is clearly evolving,’ says Jason Mander, Chief Research Officer at GWI. ‘We can see more and more consumers across the UK and Europe are now looking for less restrictive diets, and more flexibility and freedom over their food options. For brands to meet the consumer where they are, it’s worth considering flexitarians and people interested in reducing their meat consumption, rather than what we’ve seen previously, which was a strong push to attract vegans.

Losing appetite for veganism

A few years ago, consumer sentiment leaned towards reducing meat consumption and opting for dairy-free products, and brands responded accordingly. With the appetite for veganism waning, brands like Oatly have begun pulling vegan selections from the shelves after disappointing sales, and some online personalities are now publicly renouncing vegan lifestyles.  

Growing eco-fatigue 

The latest data shows that almost 1 in 4 (23%) in the UK believe there isn’t anything they can do personally to help fight climate change. This suggests the impetus to adopt more sustainable habits, and therefore, food choices, is dwindling. 

The latest figures from GWI show that the number of people in the UK who expect brands to be eco-friendly and socially responsible has fallen by 11% and 10% (from 44% and 50%, respectively) in the last two years. 

Cost-of-living trumps the ‘Thunberg effect’ 

The number of UK consumers who feel it’s important to have sustainable food products has dropped by 12% from 29% since the latter part of 2021 when concerns around the financial constraints on day-to-day purchases first started to arise. 

There’s also been an 11% rise (growing from 37%) in UK consumers saying they are now regularly opting to buy own-label products or supermarket own brands in this time period. Coupled with this, there’s been a 7% drop (falling from 36%) in those wanting food with high animal welfare standards, which shows cost is overriding the concern for the planet and animals. 

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