28 Feb Creating a Successful Vegan Product
2019 was a record-breaking year for Veganuary with over 14,000 taking partᶦ. Now Veganuary is over and we are fully immersed into 2019, we take a chance to reflect on this trend and the implications it has for the future….
In January 2019, supermarkets came out in force to cater for the rising trend of veganism and plant-based diets. With new vegan ranges appearing on shelves in M&S, Morrisons, and Aldi amongst others, consumers now have much more choice and widened exposure to a plant-based diet.
New vegan and plant-based products may be seen to target those undertaking a strict dietary and lifestyle choice, but they need to impress a wider audience if they are to succeed in the mainstream market.
We have tried and tested a number of different plant-based foods with category buyers, but not necessarily strict vegans or vegetarians. From this, we have compiled the key components for creating a successful vegan product.
We all want a product which tastes good, especially when we’re looking for something indulgent. But is it possible for a vegan product to be indulgent? Some would argue not, and amongst our reviewers, there was a general belief that these products wouldn’t taste as good as non-vegan products.
The most successful vegan products were those with no detectable taste difference. Reviewers couldn’t believe that Hellmann’s Vegan Mayo “tastes exactly like regular mayo” and praised the “nice garlicky flavour”, resulting in Taste ratings above our FoodFax Category Norm. Magnum’s Vegan Classic Ice Cream also went down a treat, with a 4-star rating overall. Consumers loved the “great chocolate taste” and “creamy ice cream” which “were such a treat and you can’t tell they are vegan”. Over 4 stars were also awarded to the Asda Extra Special Chocolate Torte which was described as ‘delicious’ and a ‘really tasty vegan dessert’. An excellent example of a product which doesn’t over promote it’s Vegan credentials and exceeds expectations.
Texture shouldn’t be overlooked; it is as important as taste. There is an expectation that well-known foods will have a certain texture, and this is where lesser-known plant-based alternatives struggle. Whilst products such as Hellmann’s Vegan Mayo delivered the expected “creamy, smooth” texture, others tended to polarise opinion – particularly products that consumers were less familiar with. Meat alternatives such as Vivera Veggie Chilli Lemon Chicken Pieces, disappointed with a “really slimy” and “rubbery” texture, when compared to real chicken texture. Oumph! Salty and Smoky Plant Protein being a case in point: “The texture was a little watery/ spongy” and “Tough and chewy…not for me”.
Price can often be a point where products fall down. Someone who is actively looking to remove or cut down on animal products may consider a higher price point, but others are simply not prepared to pay more for a plant-based alternative. If anything, consumers expect meat free products to be cheaper.
There is a general expectation that vegan products will cost more, so the “excellent value” Morrisons V Taste Coconut Katsu Curry Melt at £1.57 for two surprised many, delivering a great taste and price. However, the pricey Fravacado Avocado and Coconut Ice Cream at £6.00, was “far too expensive” (and failed to deliver on flavour).
Having a vegan diet can be considered time consuming, both in terms of shopping for and food preparation. However, there are a growing number of ready meal options out there. M&S’ Plant Kitchen Cashew Mac was a star performer; taste, texture and price were all rated above the category norm – “Lovely texture and great flavour mix. Definitely a winner with this”. Morrisons V Taste Mushroom Bolognese performed above the category norm for taste and texture, but the “uninspiring” pack let it down. Tesco’s Wicked Kitchen Pesto Lasagne failed to impress with “rubbery pasta”’ and “bland” flavours, scoring below the norm for taste, texture and price.
For some there is an expectation that Veganism ‘might be a bit healthier’, an expectation often shared with free from lines. Although others believe that products can contain ‘a lot of salt’ and added extras ‘to get the taste’. This was the case in M&S’ Plant Kitchen Green Thai Curry & Jasmine Rice, which was “very high in saturated fat, so not as healthy as you think”.
So, it seems creating a tasty, convenient plant-based option that doesn’t cost the earth is possible. Just take Morrisons V Taste Coconut Katsu Curry Melt which delivered on taste, texture and price point.
It will be interesting to see how these products survive in an ever-evolving and highly competitive marketplace and will inevitably be shaped by consumer demand. It seems the movement to cut down on meat consumption is gathering momentum, although how many maintain a strict vegan diet remains to be seen. With continued innovation in this category, own label products are only set to improve. Brands are going to have to fight harder for shelf space, as own label products forge the way.
For more information or to test your product email Sacha@cambridgemr.com or call 012230492050