We celebrate the faces and brands you’ve chosen as your vegan superheroes as we announce the winners of the Vegan Food & Living Reader Awards 2022!
The last decade has been fantastic for new vegan product launches, and last year was no exception.
Our 2022 Vegan Food & Living Reader Awards are here to celebrate the best of the newcomers, as well as those favourites that have been around for a little longer.
Businesses have continued to tap into the plant-based pound over the last 12 months, with lots of exciting new options landing on shelves and restaurant menus.
After asking for you to vote for your top vegan picks, we’re delighted to share the results.
Best milk alternative brand
The plant-based milk sector has long offered some of the most exciting vegan innovations.
With drinks now made from oats, soya, peas, potatoes, rice and more, there is something to suit everyone’s taste.
There were just 14 votes between the winner and highly commended in this category this year, but Oatly just won’t be knocked off the top spot!
Oatly burst onto the UK scene several years ago, and has remained a firm favourite ever since.
The Swedish brand offers a tasty range of milk alternatives, including its classic and organic blend, alongside its hugely popular Oatly Barista.
The company enjoyed staggering success in 2021, being listed as one of TIME magazine’s most influential 100 brands in the world.
Although it has made a few controversial decisions over the last few years, it seems that people just can’t resist the creaminess that Oatly Barista can add to a cup of tea or coffee.
With a UK factory slated to open in 2023, Oatly is set to increase its legion of loyal fans.
Highly commended: ALPRO
Alpro has long provided tasty and reliable dairy milk alternatives, boasting soya, hazelnut, and coconut among its lineup, so it’s clear to see why it’s such a popular choice with VFL readers.
Its new Not MLK oat milks, which launched in 2021, are a must-try for those seeking a dairy-like option.
Best vegan burger
Burgers are one of the world’s most popular foods, leading numerous companies to invest huge amounts of time, effort and money into developing meat-free patties that trump their meaty rivals.
At the top of the leaderboard is one of the sector’s most innovative options.
Winner: Beyond Burger
Beyond Meat’s flagship product made major waves when it came to the UK in 2018.
Since then, shoppers have turned out in droves to get their hands on the premium patty, despite the price point being higher than many of its rivals –a testament to its delicious flavour and juicy, meaty texture.
With its patty being used for McDonald’s McPlant sandwich, Beyond Meat shows no signs of slowing down.
Highly commended: Linda McCartney’s Quarter Pounder
If Beyond Meat represents a new age of plant-based food technology, Linda McCartney represents a perennial classic.
With reliably tasty options and budget-friendly pricing, this robust and satisfying option deserves its highly commended status.
Best vegan sausage
Meat-free sections in the supermarkets have exploded in recent years, partly thanks to the many new vegan sausages on offer.
After all, who doesn’t love to throw a good banger on the BBQ?
Winner: Richmond Vegan
One option stands head and shoulders above the other plant-based sausages – Richmond Meat-Free.
The company may be better known for its meaty options, but it hit the mark with its vegan bangers.
Launched in 2019, they have been commended for their authentic flavour and non-crumbly texture by vegans and meat-eaters alike.
You really can’t beat them in a vegan sausage sandwich!
Highly commended: Linda McCartney’s
Classic veggie brand Linda McCartney’s got a well-deserved highly commended for its meaty sausages – just one of its vegan options.
The brand, launched in 1991, is increasingly plant-based. The sausage choices include everything from Red Onion & Rosemary to Lincolnshire.
Best vegan chicken
Chicken is often the go-to option for nonvegans, but just because you’ve given up eating animals doesn’t mean you have to go without.
In fact, vegan chicken options have come on leaps and bounds over the last few years.
Our winner proves just that, offering tasty alternatives you can pick up in the supermarket.
Winner: Quorn Vegan
Veggie stalwart Quorn has been working to make more of its recipes suitable for vegans, and it’s certainly hitting the mark for many of you.
Its plant-based Vegan Pieces are perfect for keeping in the freezer to add to a curry or stir-fry for a hearty punch of protein and source of fibre, while the Vegan Chicken-Free Slices really lift a sandwich at lunchtime.
New to the Quorn range is the Quorn Southern Fried Wings, which are proving a real hit with kids.
Best vegan fish
While manufacturers have had huge success recreating some meaty foods – notably burgers and sausages – they have struggled with fish. Until now that is.
We are starting to see a wealth of seafood hit plant-based aisles everywhere, and our worthy winner is certainly leading the way.
Winner: Good Catch
Good Catch was founded by brothers Derek and Chad Sarno (who are also the creators of Tesco’s ‘Wicked Kitchen’ line).
Launched in 2016 in the US, the brand has created numerous fish alternatives including Plant-Based Tuna Flakes, which are readily available in the UK and new frozen ready-made options such as Fish Burger, Crab Cakes and Fish Sticks.
All of the products are made using ingredients like beans and legumes.
Get the lowdown on our favourite vegan products here:
Best cheese brand
Vegan cheese is one of the more controversial animal-free offerings available. It’s been tough for producers to recreate the meltiness, flavour and texture in their dairy-free options.
While there is still some way to go, significant strides have been made in the last few years.
Winner: Applewood Vegan
When Applewood Vegan launched in 2019, it immediately sold out across the nation, with producers unable to keep up with the massive demand.
After all, it’s not always easy to find a cheese replacement that not only tastes good, but also melts just like dairy.
Applewood fitted the bill when it launched – and still beats its rivals now.
Now you can get it in three forms – the block, grated, and slices.
Highly commended: Violife
Violife has been at the forefront of vegan cheese innovation, creating dairy-free versions of classics like feta, cream cheese, and perhaps most notably, strong cheddar and Camembert.
The company made food history in 2018 when it was named one of the top 20 most successful cheese brands in the UK.
Since then, it has continued to go from strength to strength, adding Parmesan, mozzarella, and smoky slices to its portfolio.
Best vegan pizza brand
Luckily for those of us who can’t resist a slice (or more) of pizza, there are now numerous pre-made versions available on supermarket shelves.
Among the popular brands are Pizza Express’ supermarket line, and One Planet Pizza. But just like last year, one company was a firm favourite for 2022.
Winner: White Rabbit
White Rabbit was created by friends Nick and Matteo, who worked together at Oxford’s The White Rabbit Pub, behind the bar and in the kitchen respectively.
The pair found customers kept asking for gluten-free, vegan versions of their pizzas.
The brand launched its vegan products in Sainsbury’s in 2018 and has now rolled out to Waitrose, Coop, and Morrisons, with pizzas including the Garlicky Mushroom, Sizzlin’ Jackfruit, and Vegan Margherita, and the latest addition, a vegan calzone.
Best vegan chocolate brand
Is there anything better than chocolate? Vegan chocolate, obviously!
With innovations in the sector, consumers no longer have to rely on dark options if they want to go dairy-free.
There are many delicious, smooth, milky options available – without an animal product in sight.
Winner: Pure Heavenly
Pure Heavenly made a splash in 2019 after founder Stephen Conway appeared on Dragon’s Den, earning multiple offers.
The company did not end up working with any of the moguls, but it has gone on to win an even better accolade –a VFL 2022 Reader Award!
The chocolate, which is free-from dairy, gluten, wheat, soy, GMO ingredients and palm oil, contains less than one per cent sugar.
Better than that, it is delicious. It’s available from many UK retailers and online.
Highly commended: Booja-Booja
Just like last year, Booja-Booja has scooped the highly-commended mention in 2022’s awards.
The luxury truffle brand, which was founded in 1999, makes an all-vegan range of delicious chocs that are dairy-free, gluten-free and soya-free.
These indulgent chocolates would make a perfect treat for Easter (or any time of year!).
Best vegan dessert brand
After enjoying an indulgent main course, there is nothing nicer than tucking into a luxurious dessert.
While the better chefs among us may take to the kitchen to whip up something tasty, the rest of us can just pop to the shops and pick up something special.
Pudding company GÜ released its first vegan desserts in 2019, with a range of cheesecakes hitting the shelves.
Since then, its animal-free offerings have gone from strength to strength, with a line of indulgent mousses featuring chocolate ganache and salted caramel now available in UK supermarkets.
Best vegan ice cream brand
When the summer comes, nothing quite hits the spot like vegan ice cream.
And rather than having to rely on a fruit sorbet, we can now enjoy a whole host of decadent vegan versions from some of the biggest names in the market.
Winner: Ben & Jerry’s
Premium US ice-cream brand Ben & Jerry’s launched a trio of vegan flavours in the UK in 2017 to much excitement.
Since then, it has expanded its US dairy-free range to around 20 flavours, with dairy-free versions of its popular options like Phish Food.
While some UK fans are frustrated about only being able to get their mitts on around six flavours, the Vermont company still nabbed our top spot, because six is still better than none!
Now please let us try the rest of the flavours Ben & Jerry’s.
Highly commended: Swedish Glace
Long-term vegans will recognise this brand –a true stalwart of the dairy-free scene.
With a host of classic flavours like vanilla and chocolate among others, Swedish Glace offers a good option when it comes to taste, accessibility and availability.
Best vegan drink
While good old-fashioned water may be healthy, accessible, and the best for hydration, sometimes you want something a bit tastier to sip on.
Luckily, there are numerous plant-based options around, from alcoholic to non-alcoholic.
There are many upsides to oat milk – it is one of the most sustainable alternatives to dairy milk, it offers a host of nutritional benefits, and most importantly, it is delicious.
Moma, which makes a range of products from oats, is a small independent South London company founded 15 years ago.
Its tasty drinks include both a barista blend (perfect for hot drinks) and its Original blend –a cold glass is the perfect accompaniment to warm cookies.
Highly commended: Proudly Vegan Wine
Vegans who fancy a more grown-up tipple are likely to find something that suits at Proudly Vegan Wine, which offers a whole range of delicious wines.
And it has thought of every little detail, reassuring customers that even the ink and glue used on its labels are vegan.
Best high-street restaurant for vegan options
Eating out as a vegan has become increasingly easy in recent years: gone are the times of nibbling on a lettuce leaf or chips while your friends and family tuck into a feast!
Eateries now realise there’s huge demand for meat-free meals, and have been expanding their menus accordingly.
Wagamama has been delighting plantbased diners for a long time (making it onto this list for the last three years!).
The chain is never afraid to speak up about the benefits of vegan food: last September, it called on diners to take a plant-based pledge to help the planet.
And as the first high eatery to adopt a 50 per cent animal-free menu, it’s no wonder it continues to win plaudits from vegans across the nation.
Highly commended: PizzaExpress
PizzaExpress offers tasty, casual meals with multiple animal-free options.
The chain was one of the earlier adopters of vegan cheese, launching dairy-free mozzarella in 2017, and has continued to add vegan options.
Last September, the chain also opened an all-vegan outlet in London, with an enormous menu offering animal-free alternatives to all its classic options.
Best cafe/coffee shop for vegan options
While lockdowns throughout the last two years left many of us unable to grab our daily caffeine fix, many chains did not let that stop them from launching exciting new vegan options, with one in particular standing out.
Winner: Costa Coffee
Costa Coffee led the high street café vegan charge in 2021, launching some spectacular new treats.
Among its offerings were a meat-free bacon bap, mac n’ cheeze, BBQ chick’n panini, and its chocolate and pecan slice created by vegan recipe channel BOSH!.
Costa has certainly won the hearts of our readers this year for making it so easy for vegans to grab a bite on the high street.
Highly commended: PRET
Ever since it opened its first Veggie Pret in London’s Soho in 2016, Pret has been one of the most forward-thinking chains when it comes to animal-free options.
With a growing array of plant-based sandwiches, soups, and more, it continues to be a firm favourite.
Best online vegan food retailer
While grabbing all our plant-based essentials in supermarkets is convenient, all-vegan retailers will always hold a special place in our heart for being visionary and ethical.
The winner of the best vegan online food retailer is a true all-rounder, offering an amazing range of products.
Winner: The Vegan Kind
The Vegan Kind, which launched in 2013, is a small, family-run business that offers an impressive 5,000 vegan products.
It’s often the first to stock highly-anticipated new launches, and is a great first port of call for those specialised items (vegan caterpillar cake, anyone?).
With all these treats on offer, as well as carbon neutral next-day delivery, The Vegan Kind thoroughly deserves its win.
Vegan personality of the year
Winner: Chris Packham
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the career of Chris Packham over the last few years that the naturalist, TV presenter and author has snaffled the prize for vegan personality of the year.
After decades spent educating the public about wildlife, Chris realised if he were to live in line with his morals, he needed to change his diet.
After taking part in Veganuary 2019, he continued beyond the 31-day pledge, becoming an advocate for the vegan lifestyle, using his platform to highlight the unethical treatment of animals.
Best vegan product launch of 2021
Every year, retailers and food outlets put their best foot forward in the hopes of wowing consumers with their newest and best plant-based offerings – and every year the competition gets more fierce, as new innovations come to market.
While this year was no exception, there could only be one ultimate winner.
Winner: Greggs vegan sausage and bean melt
A few years ago, it may have seemed inconceivable that a high street bakery like Greggs could take the vegan world by storm.
And yet that is exactly what it did with the launch of its vegan sausage roll in 2019.
In 2021, lightning struck twice when the chain revamped its classic sausage and bean melt, removing the meat and dairy, to offer an incredibly popular vegan version.
Highly commended: Vegan KitKat
Nestle’s Vegan KitKat was highly commended by you.
The four-fingered bar, which launched last June as an exclusive to Sainsbury’s, features the brand’s signature wafer coated in rice milk chocolate, offering a dairy-free alternative that tastes every bit as good as the original.
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