By Alice Wright
A record 500,000 people signed up for Veganuary 2021, pledging to only eat plant-based foods for the first month of the year. This is double the figures for 2019 and also the first year that major supermarkets have run adverts promoting the movement.
I spoke to Gabriel Bean, founder of Grounded, a company which makes plant-based protein shakes about the movement towards plant-based products and sustainability shifts in the food and drink industry. “For me the move to plant-based kicked off a couple of years ago,” Bean explains. “But it’s taken a few years of test and trial. This probably marks the year that people are really feeling the benefits from it.”
Has the Veganuary movement impacted business? “I don’t think Veganuary necessarily changes business for us. We had exceptionally high sales volumes going into January in the November and December period as well. What plays a role is the attitude towards plant-based products. People are fed up with food and drink products that are not good for you and not good for the planet.”
In the food and drink sector, sustainability was a luxury even a couple of years ago. If you want to package your product sustainably it costs more and it’s harder work. It’s particularly difficult for smaller brands to be sustainable and this is something that will have to change in the future.
“Sustainability has always been at the core,” Bean continues. “It was in the top three things to consider as we developed our new products. It was so important that this product be sustainable, not so we could jump on the sustainability hype but so we could scale consciously. I can sleep well at night knowing that the packaging has come from a responsible source and isn’t going to be floating in the seas of the Maldives. I think it’s a requirement now, if you’re not sustainable then you haven’t met the basic criteria for food and drink.”
When I think about protein shakes, I associate them with busy people commuting in and out of the office at ungodly hours with no time to cook a nutritious meal. According to Bean, Grounded’s shakes have managed to avoid being pigeon-holed like this. “We launched the product in August after the first lockdown,” he says. “So we were developing our sales plan for what life would be like after the first lockdown. We put a lot of time looking into online direct to customer retail – it’s an exponentially growing space anyway and retail sales are struggling.”
The other marketplace change I’m interested to hear about is the closure of gyms, another usual protein-shake hotspot. “Now people are working out from home,” Gabriel explains. “There aren’t the options to go into a post-workout gym store so we’ve angled the whole online custom to a workout from home attitude. It’s worked really well, and we have several campaigns on Instagram getting a lot of traffic.”
So what are his prospects for 2021. “There is going to be so much talk on veganism and sustainability this year. I think it’s really important to gauge from businesses what their core beliefs, morals and ethos are. A lot of companies will be jumping on this as a marketing opportunity. We at Grounded don’t see sustainability as a market opportunity but as the future of where food and drink are going.”
Picture credit: Tony Webster