To celebrate just how far the UK's supermarkets have come in embracing veganism, we're proud to launch our inaugural Vegan Food & Living Supermarket Awards 2022!
Did you know that own-brand supermarket vegan cheese only really became a ‘thing’ in 2016, when Sainsbury’s launched its first Deliciously Free From range?
Did you also know that the first dedicated vegan aisle in a mainstream supermarket didn’t exist until 2018?
From where we are today, these landmarks seem like a whole world away, and we couldn’t be more grateful for the advancements we’ve seen over the last five or six years in vegan food and drink, not just from the major producers, but from the supermarkets themselves.
So to celebrate, we’re delighted to announce the launch of the first ever Vegan Food & Living Supermarket Awards!
We asked you to vote for your favourite own-brand products in categories such as Best Own-Brand Milk Alternative, Best Vegan Burger, Best Vegan Cheese, Best Vegan Dessert, and the two they all want to win – Best New Product Launch of 2021, and Best Supermarket Own-Brand Vegan Range.
Now it’s time to officially announce the winners of the Vegan Food & Living Supermarket Awards 2022…
Best new vegan product launch of 2021
Who doesn’t want to be declared the best product launch of the entire year?
This was a hotly contested category, with the likes of Aldi’s Vegan Peri-Peri Butterfly Chicken and Waitrose’s Vegan No Lobster Marie Rose Roll getting shortlisted, but in the end two products really claimed your hearts…
Winner: M&S Plant Kitchen Panda Bao Buns
We know that vegans don’t eat anything with a face, but we’re willing to make an exception for these gorgeous bao buns!
Launched in September 2021, the light and fluffy buns are filled with sticky hoisin mushrooms and are the perfect choice for lunch as they take just a couple of minutes in the microwave to heat up.
A product that’s super cute and tastes fantastic – what’s not to love? And clearly you all do, because they’re the worthy winner of Best New Product Launch of 2021. www.marksandspencer.com
Highly commended: Wicked Kitchen Ice Creams
November might not be the most obvious time to launch a new ice cream range, but it clearly didn’t do Wicked Kitchen any harm.
The range blends coconut oil with proteinrich lupin beans to create a really creamy ice cream that’s now available in a range of different flavours, from tubs of Cookie Dough and Birthday Cake to Berry White Sticks and Chocolate and Red Berry Cones.
It’s lovely to see some playful vegan ice cream flavours and we think that’s what has helped to get them this award.
Best own-brand meat alternatives
The big brands are definitely dominating the scene when it comes to vegan milk alternatives, with the likes of Oatly and Alpro continually launching new products, but some of the supermarkets are doing well to hold their own, and in this category there was a clear winner…
Winner: Aldi Actileaf Oat Drink
Oat milk has increased in popularity over the last few years thanks to its environmentally-friendly credentials and versatility in tea, coffee and cooking.
While the big brands have been busy creating barista-style versions, the supermarkets have also brought out some great own-brand versions and the bonus is that they’re often a lot cheaper.
Aldi’s winning Actileaf is sugar-free and features added Vitamins B2, B12, D and calcium for just 85p per litre – that’s less than half the price of many of its branded competitors. If you haven’t already, give it a go.
Best own-brand vegan burger
There are so many vegan burgers to choose from these days that it can be hard to know which one to pick. So hard in fact, that we had to have a winner and highly commended in this category as there were just a few votes between them…
Winner: Co-op Gro, The Incredible Burger
Co-op introduced its Gro, The Incredible Burger to the mix a couple of years ago, and it has fully lived up to its name.
Thick, juicy and with a very authentic flavour, it does a fantastic job in rivalling even the big brands, and it does it at the bargain price of just £1.85 for a two-pack.
Made from rehydrated textured soya protein, it’s high in both protein and fibre.
Highly commended: Sainsbury’s Plant Pioneers Ultimate Plant Burgers
Another bargain option, coming in at just £2 for two burgers, these lightly seasoned patties are perfect for all the family.
Again made from rehydrated textured soya protein, they feature the ‘bleeding’ beetroot juice that’s become synonymous with vegan burgers and work equally well on the barbecue, or cooked in the oven for an evening treat. Great work Sainsbury’s.
Best own-brand vegan sausage
When it comes to versatility, the humble vegan sausage has to be up there among the most useful ingredients in a fridge.
Serve with mash for a hearty dinner, cook up in a sandwich for breakfast, add to pasta or combine with vegetables in a one-pot, the list goes on.
Winner: Sainsbury’s Plant Pioneers Cumberland Shroomdogs
Sainsbury’s Plant Pioneers Cumberland Shroomdogs are perfect examples of a sausage that lends itself to many uses – the combination of mushrooms, fried onions and herbs means that they have plenty of flavour to shine on their own, but the texture is solid enough to withstand being cooked in a casserole, and as an added benefit they’re soya-free.
This all-rounder quality makes them your pick of the supermarket offerings.
Highly commended: Tesco Plant Chef Caramelised Onion Meat-Free Bangers
Tesco’s Plant Chef range is sometimes overlooked in favour of Wicked Kitchen, but it’s great for basic ingredients at good prices, such as these bangers, priced at £1.45.
Developed by Derek Sarno (Wicked Kitchen co-founder), they combine caramelised red onions, pea protein and mushrooms for a bold flavoured banger. www.tesco.com
Best own-brand fish alternatives
Last year saw quite a few supermarkets try their hand at vegan versions of fish, but there was one clear winner in this category.
Winner: Waitrose Plantlife Thai Style No Fishcakes
Waitrose’s Thai Style No Fishcakes are made with jackfruit, green beans, red pepper and spring onion, and spiced with aromatic red curry paste.
Bursting with flavour, they definitely have quite a kick (despite being labelled as mild), so may not be for the faint hearted, but it’s fantastic to see a supermarket pushing the boundaries and showing just how creative vegan food can be.
Get the lowdown on our favourite vegan products here:
Best own-brand vegan cheese
When it comes to vegan cheese, it’s true that most people either love it or hate it, but some versions definitely hit the spot better than others…
Joint winner: Aldi Plant Menu Coconut Oil Alternative to Mature Cheddar
It’s quite an accolade to win the award for Best Vegan Cheese, and Aldi’s bargain version shares the prize with Waitrose.
Made from a coconut oil base, Aldi’s Alternative to Mature Cheddar has a lovely rich flavour and melts really well, so is ideal for something like cheese on toast.
At just £1.39 for 200g – over £1 cheaper than many other supermarket brands – it’s the perfect example of how vegan cheese can taste good without costing a fortune. If you’re a fan, it’s also available in a grated version too.
Joint winner: Waitrose Vegan Breaded Baking Melts with Relish
Now that supermarkets have got their basic own-brand vegan cheese recipes nailed, it’s great to see them getting creative, like these Breaded Baking Melts.
Reminiscent of Camembert, the cheesy centre is encased in breadcrumbs and served with a redcurrant relish.
Once melted in the oven for 15 minutes, the cheese becomes oozy, complementing the crispy breadcrumbs perfectly. A great option for a starter or light lunch served with salad.
Best own-brand ready meal range
Even the most enthusiastic cook needs a break every now and again, and vegan ready meals have come on leaps and bounds over the last few years.
With every supermarket trying to offer something unique, it’s hard to choose between them, but you guys have voted two as leading the way that little bit more…
Winner: Plant Kitchen by M&S
The M&S development team must be incredibly hard workers because they seem to be constantly pushing the boundaries to come up with delicious new options.
Last year saw the launch of Melt in the Middle No Fish Cakes and Potato, Caramelised Onion and Truffle Pie, while this Veganuary treated us to Wood-Fired Hot and Spicy Pizza with vegan pepperoni, Tikka Masala, Vegan Lasagne and Bravas Dirty Fries.
It seems that no matter what cuisine you’re in the mood for, M&S has something to hit the spot, and it’s guaranteed to be good quality.
Highly commended: Wicked Kitchen by Tesco
When Derek Sarno brought his Wicked Kitchen range to Tesco, it marked a turning point for vegan supermarket ranges. Wicked Kitchen was serious competition, and it has continued to grow ever since.
Offering bold flavours and creative uses of plants and in particular mushrooms, you can get your hands on delights ranging from Gunpowder Chickpea Jalfrezi and Kickin’ Cauliflower Katsu Curry to Tuscan Style White Bean Stew and Bigger Big Bros Enchiladas.
We can’t wait to see what marvels they come up with next!
Best own-brand vegan dessert
Sometimes a meal doesn’t quite feel complete until you’ve indulged in dessert, and things have come on a lot since brownies were the only option as these two worthy winners prove…
Winner: Wicked Kitchen Chocolate Vanilla Cheesecake
We’re big fans of vegan cheesecake at Vegan Food & Living HQ and it seems that you guys feel exactly the same way.
And you can forget about the nuts, Wicked Kitchen has gone for full on indulgence with this wicked treat, topping a sweet biscuit base with vanilla flavoured coconut alternative to cream, finished off with a rich chocolate sauce.
Decadent, moreish and naughty in all the right ways, this is certainly a treat that will leave you feeling satisfied.
Highly commended: Asda Extra Special Belgian Chocolate & Seville Orange Cake
We couldn’t quite believe this was vegan when we first saw it in store.
Layers of rich chocolate orange sponge are sandwiched together with marmalade and orange frosting, then the whole cake is enveloped in a layer of Belgian chocolate orange frosting and beautifully decorated with rosettes of frosting and ganache, shards of chocolate and candied orange pieces. It’s an absolute show-stopper!
Best supermarket own-brand vegan range
This is the award that all supermarkets want to win. They’ve all put in the hard work developing their own products rather than just selling other people’s, but which one stands head and shoulders above the rest? There could only be one winner…
Winner: Plant Kitchen by M&S
After winning our Best New Product Launch and Best Vegan Ready Meal Range categories, it comes as little surprise that M&S has claimed top spot in this category too.
Whether you’re looking for basics like No Chicken Nuggets or Fishless Goujons, a No Salt Beef Sandwich for lunch, No Chicken Kiev or Sweet N Sour No Chicken for dinner, or Churros with Chocolate Dip for dessert, you’ll find no shortage of options to choose from in M&S’ spectacular Plant Kitchen range.
It constantly surprises and delights with every new addition to the range, and it really feels like M&S is trying to push the boundaries to serve UK vegans well. And very grateful we are for it!
Best supermarket for vegan options
All the supermarkets have upped their efforts to attract the vegan pound, but which one is doing the most and giving us exactly the variety that we want, at a price we’re happy to pay?
In the end there were two front runners battling it out to claim the prize…
When veganism first started to attract more mainstream attention about five years ago, Tesco (with Derek Sarno at the helm) was the trendsetter leading the way in bringing exciting new products to the vegan audience.
Leading with its own ranges of Wicked Kitchen and Plant Chef products, it was also the first one to bring us Beyond Burgers and Good Catch products, amongst many others.
The other supermarkets may have upped their game over the last couple of years, but Tesco is still hanging on to the top spot thanks to the sheer volume of vegan products available in store and the constant willingness to innovate.
Highly commended: Sainsbury’s
Sainsbury’s is certainly giving Tesco a run for its money, slowly catching up with the number of vegan products stocked, and indeed the exclusivity of products that it offers.
Add to this the growing popularity of the Plant Pioneers own-brand range, with delights such as No Salmon Fillets and No Prawn Toast, and we think Sainsbury’s could be one to watch over the next few years.
A huge well done to all of our winners of the Vegan Food & Living Supermarket Awards 2022!
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