Should vegan products be sold in the meat aisle? It’s a tricky question that many of us often debate, but as Clea Grady explains, it might be a good thing when you can’t find the vegan section in the supermarket…
When you go vegan, the sight and smell of meat can turn your stomach! Knowing the suffering experienced by animals to make these products makes walking down the meat aisle a difficult and upsetting prospect.
But, if we want to end animal suffering, people need to be tempted to try plant-based alternatives instead.
If vegan products are sold separately, the chances that consumers will pick them up fall and instead they’ll opt for familiar products.
Keen to find out if people would buy vegan products if they were ‘normalised’ by being placed alongside non-vegan products, consumer research platform Attest polled 500 UK respondents and 500 US respondents on the topic.
Their research discovered that the vegan aisle was the area most likely to ‘never’ be visited (18% UK, 22% US). Meanwhile, a further 28% of both Brits and Americans ‘rarely’ visit it.
Furthermore, their research revealed that only 16% of non-vegan buyers said they would buy vegan products from the vegan aisle.
This research highlights the importance of showcasing vegan products to new audiences in a bid to normalise them.
So in this article, Clea Grady explores why it might actually be a good thing when vegan products are sold in the meat aisle…
Should vegan products be sold in the meat aisle?
Food shopping changes when you go vegan. Do you remember the days when you would wander aimlessly from aisle to aisle, the entire supermarket your oyster, picking things up and pondering them?
Once you’re vegan though, you turn into a shopper who acts more like a highly trained burglar or spy, with pre-programmed geo-coordinates of every plant-based product and ingredient.
Herbivores can scoot around the edges of an average supermarket, swoop down the aisles that contain our bounty and past those that we know house nothing but disappointment and death. It’s practically a superpower.
But what if we turn that scenario on its head when asking should vegan products be sold in the meat aisle?
After all, if it’s possible for us, as vegans, to avoid several aisles of food, surely it’s possible for all the non-vegans to avoid our little, and usually green-marked, areas?
“That’s a good thing”, you say? The vegan-friendly areas are easy to find and who wants to see, or even have to acknowledge, all that vacuum-packed flesh?
I hear you. It makes my life easier and more palatable too, but I suggest that, as vegans, we have a responsibility to toughen up and look at the big picture, because this is not about us.
Increased sales of plant-based products in the meat aisle
Whether we want to admit it or not, if someone’s doing a mad dash to the shops to grab their family dinner, they’re unlikely to head to the free-from section and have a good nose around.
They’re going to go straight to what makes their kids happy. What reason, therefore, have non-vegans got to visit our tiny green annexe? We’re relying on the fact that people will want to.
Yes, of course some will – you and I found it after all – but imagine how many more might have their interest piqued if they could see what amazing options are now available to them! If they don’t know they exist, how or why will they ever try them?
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That’s the very reason the makers of the (now legendary) Beyond Burger insisted that retailers stocking their burgers displayed them right alongside animal products.
In fact, they went further than that. If a retailer refused to put their products in the same chiller as their meat counterparts, then Beyond Burger refused to sell to them. A big stance for a vegan company! And guess what? It worked.
In 2018, one of the largest retailers in the US reported that “out of all grocery stores in southern California in the five weeks up to 17th April this year, the Beyond Burger was the number one selling beef patty”.
That’s another thing we need to remember when questioning the layout and ease of our local and national supermarket aisles: vegan food isn’t only eaten by vegans.
The bigger hitters are noticing this through their cash registers. In 2019, Tesco moved vegan burgers, sausages and other meat alternatives into the meat aisle, stating that they wanted to ‘play an active role’ in encouraging their customers to eat less meat.
But we also know that means they’re recognising a trend; a change in how people are spending their money.
Supermarkets are all about money, so when we start seeing significant changes like this it’s a cause for celebration. It’s a reaction to a tidal shift – one that the animal rights movement has been working towards tirelessly, for decades.
When this move by Tesco featured in the newspapers in 2019, it was also reported that “21 per cent of households have reduced their meat intake in the past two years”.
Recognising that their competitors were onto something, Sainsbury’s followed suit and adopted similar tactics.
What happened on social media? Instead of celebrating, many vegans complained. How disappointing. For such outward, forward-thinking individuals, we can’t half be narrow-minded in our righteousness.
The animals and our planet don’t need us to be righteous. The animals and our planet need us to change. And change quickly.
We don’t just want vegans buying vegan food. Everybody needs to! Plant-based options are more abundant, more exciting and more readily available than ever before, but unless non-vegans see them they’re not going to know they exist. And vegans will always know that they exist.
It’s like the Bat Signal. When a new range of products launches, vegans ensure it gets its own additional and louder line of marketing.
On social media, across WhatsApp groups, in group chats and on message boards, it goes off. A new vegan cheese? We know about it. New sandwich options at M&S? We’ve got one for lunch today. A new takeaway listed on Deliveroo? We had it delivered last Friday night, thanks.
It was the business. Vegans will never miss out. But the non-vegans will and, more importantly, so will the animals. They’ll miss out on their lives.
Conclusion: Why vegan products should be sold in the meat aisle
Change is often uncomfortable, but most of us didn’t choose to be vegan to be comfortable.
We’re made of strong stuff. If anyone has got the strength and stamina to face the flesh and smile anyway, it’s the herbivores.
We can’t hashtag the hell out of #plantbasedmuscle and then run away screaming. We have to be the living, breathing and brilliant example of what it is to choose better and live better.
Regardless of where the animal products are, we have to walk past them.
Yes, we can avoid particular aisles, but we still know they’re there. I don’t need to see the deli counter, I can smell it as soon as I walk in the door.
I live for the day when I can walk into a shop and never smell it again. Until then, I will celebrate the fact that veganism is growing surely and steadily out of its hiding place, and right out into those bright fluorescent lights. And I hope you will too.
Want to learn more about how to best promote veganism? See our guide on encouraging vegan living without being too pushy.