Why vegan consumers are planning to spread their spend this Christmas

Read Time:   |  8th October 2020

As we rapidly approach Christmas 2020, we asked our Vegan Reader Panel to tell us all about their festive food shopping habits and whether they feel the supermarkets and manufacturers are still missing a trick when it comes to readymade vegan products...

We know how powerful the vegan pound is becoming and judging by the UK supermarkets’ ranges of plant-based options this Christmas, everyone is trying to attract the vegan consumer. But what do they really want and what are supermarkets and manufacturers still failing to deliver?

We asked our Vegan Food & Living Reader Panel* their thoughts in September’s monthly survey and here’s what they had to say…

Homemade is still king with vegan consumers

When asked about the Christmas Day main course, 43% said they’d be making it themselves from scratch, compared with 21% who would definitely be buying a readymade version from the supermarket.

And what would they be choosing to make or buy? Despite its bad rep as the ‘boring option’, an impressive 27% would still be going down the traditional route of classic nut roast, while 31% would be mixing things up a little by opting for a mushroom or vegetable Wellington. Despite several different versions appearing in supermarket ranges this year, only 13% will be adorning their table with a mock-turkey.

The big win for supermarkets, however, is when it comes to sides (think vegan ‘pigs in blankets’, stuffing and cauliflower ‘cheese’) and party food. 38% of respondents said they’d probably be buying their sides from a supermarket compared to 29% who plan to make them from scratch, while 46% will be buying their party food readymade, with only 12% opting to make it at home.

Is Tesco losing its dominance as the best supermarket for vegan options?

In all previous Vegan Food & Living surveys both big and small, Tesco has emerged as the market leaders when it comes to vegan options. But for the first time ever, Sainsbury’s has just pipped it to the post, with 30% saying they were planning to do their main shop at Sainsbury’s this Christmas, compared to 24% at Tesco.

Despite Asda recently announcing it is going to introduce ambient vegan aisles into its stores, only 8% are planning to do their main shop here, so perhaps it needs to be tested out before it wins the vegan consumer around completely.

M&S has a mixed fate, with only 2% planning to do their main shop at the store, but a sizeable 69% saying they would be visiting to pick up occasional items there from the vegan Christmas range.

Interestingly, while respondents were planning to do their main shop in Sainsbury’s, only 45% were interested in picking products up from Sainsbury’s vegan Christmas range, compared to 56% who were interested in the Tesco plant-based Christmas range, so Tesco are clearly still leading when it comes to festive innovation.

Bottom of the list is Ocado, with 76% saying they weren’t planning to spend any money with Ocado at all this Christmas!

What manufacturers still need to make to satisfy vegan consumers

Although there’s no doubt that the availability and range of vegan products released over the last few years is simply amazing, there are still some products that vegans are yearning after.

When asked about products they’d like to be able to buy readymade versions of, 47% said they wanted the classic Sunday lunch comfort food, Yorkshire puddings. Only 25% of those surveyed said they’d try making their own, so there’s a massive gap in the market right there.

Even though a lot of mainstream chocolate and sweets have recently been reformulated to turn vegan-friendly (think Vegan Galaxy and Fruit Pastilles), 62% of our panel are desperate to see a vegan version of Maltesers, while 42% would love to be able to buy big family-sized tubs of vegan chocolates at Christmas – come on Cadbury’s, where are the vegan Miniature Heroes?

And how about a vegan Terry’s Chocolate Orange? We’re waiting…

Finally, while vegan cheese production has undoubtedly come on leaps and bounds, 56% of our panel would still love to be able to fill their vegan cheese platter with vegan brie and camembert.

 

What will Christmas look like this year for vegan consumers?

2020 has been a year unlike anything most have us have experienced in our lifetimes.

There’s no doubt that what we all really need is a big, fun-filled family Christmas, but unfortunately no one is quite sure what this year will bring yet.

When asked how they were feeling about Christmas right now, only 17% said that they were really excited, with the larger proportion showing some hesitation about the festive period this year.

31% said they were apprehensive about what restrictions would mean for this Christmas, but would try to make the best of it whatever, while 37% said they felt they couldn’t really plan anything yet because there’s too much uncertainty.

But if best laid plans are able to go ahead, what would the vegan/non-vegan mix look like around their dinner table?

A sizeable 52% will only be cooking vegan options for Christmas dinner this year, compared with 25% who will be catering for a combination of vegan and non-vegan dinners.

Only 6% said they’d be cooking the vegan option while someone else would be providing the non-vegan option.

And while in previous years restaurants may have been thriving during this festive period, only 2% of people said they were thinking of having their Christmas dinner at a restaurant this year.

When it comes to Christmas gift shopping, there’s a definite shift in consumer habits too.

46% of respondents said they were planning to do their gift shopping online this year compared to only 8% who were only going to traverse the high street.

33% are hoping to achieve a good middle ground with a mix of internet shopping and visiting the high street, while 7% are intending to get their creative side in gear and make their gifts this year.

The vegan world is continuing to grow and expand at an amazing rate, and the supermarkets are doing a commendable job at adapting to the changing needs. But there’s still plenty of wins to be had, so we can’t wait to see what 2021 brings to the vegan consumer.

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*Every month we put questions to a specially selected panel of 550 readers to gauge up-to-the-minute thinking of the UK’s vegan consumers. Contact Megan Gibbings if your company would like to be involved.

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