Blog: ‘Vegan’ labeled store brand products could spell opportunity

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Blog: ‘Vegan’ labeled store brand products could spell opportunity

By Carolyn Schierhorn - 09/13/2017

In the United States only 3.3 percent of consumers are vegetarian and just half of these individuals are strict vegans (those abstaining from all animal-derived substances), according to a 2016 Harris Poll survey by Vegetarian Resource Group. Nevertheless, the Baltimore-based organization reports that 36 percent of U.S. consumers eat vegetarian meals at least once a week.

In researching an article for the fall issue of Private Label International, a sister publication to Store Brands, I learned that the United States is second only to Germany in the number of new products with vegan claims introduced in 2016. The U.S. accounts for 17 percent of them and Germany 18 percent, Mintel’s Global New Products Database reveals.

Many of these vegan food products, including meat substitutes, are consumed by “flexitarians,” who range from those who eat meat once in a while to those who are just starting their journey toward eating more plant-based products. Yet among 16- to 24-year-olds (the older members of Generation Z and younger millennials), there is a significant trend toward a vegan lifestyle because it is perceived as being better for the planet as well as for animal welfare and human health.

Moreover, because of all of the vegan product innovations, including advances in plant-based proteins, it is much easier today than previously to have a balanced diet and obtain all nine essential amino acids while abstaining from animal-based food.

Veganism, in other words, has become mainstream. And as many supermarket chains in Europe have done, U.S. retailers should consider rolling out store brand products, if not entire lines, with “vegan” noted prominently on the packaging. Such SKUs would fit nicely within a free-from or organic private brand assortment, as Tesco, Carrefour and Migros have found.

San Antonio, Texas-based H-E-B, for one, evidently recognizes the market potential (as well as the deliciousness) of vegan recipes, as it recently named Skull & Cakebones, an Austin-area vegan bakery, as the $25,000 grand award winner of the retailer’s 2017 Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best competition.

Don’t let the small percentage of vegans in the total U.S. population mislead you. There is opportunity here, with sustainability-conscious Gen Z-ers gaining purchasing power, millennials loving to try new cuisine and baby boomers trying to reduce their meat consumption to combat cardiovascular disease and other health problems.

Think about leveraging this trend before your competitors do. Vegan-labeled store brand products can be a mark of differentiation.