The vegan pound is a vital part of the economy and gives vegan consumers power to influence retail outlets through their shopping habits.
The link between health and veganism cannot be denied and health sells.
The diet has been linked with a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and obesity. Some even say that vegans are better in bed – I couldn’t possibly comment on that one.
While some vegans are keep to distance themselves from the idea that health is a driving force for their dietary choice, explaining, instead, that animal welfare is their sole concern, the increasing number of “health vegans” have helped drive the marketability of plant-based foods forward.
Of course the number of ethical vegans has also increased significantly over the past few years and catering for alternative markets has made some big marketing departments very aroused indeed.
While those driven by animal rights may sniff at “health vegans” and those who avoid dairy for allergy reasons, we must thank them for at least helping put plant milk and vegan food on supermarket shelves and reducing the need to seek out specialist shops while living in a two tractor town.
Personally, I prefer to throw my money at these smaller independent stores, but the never-ending march of the corporate giants cannot be denied – and such giants are all some people have to fill their shopping trolleys. We have to be honest here, and people lead busy lives and, now the option is there, prefer to get all their shopping in one place. Lazy? Maybe, but it’s still what people do and the face that that one place now stocks six different plant milks can only be a good thing, right?
Supermarkets even sell vegan cheeses and desserts and chocolate now, so, obviously veganism has certainly burst through into the mainstream and this can only be applauded.
However, there is a downside, and that comes in the fact that the independent shops are being priced out of the market. Supermarkets and chain stores such as Holland and Barrett have the buying power to entice customers through the door through constant special offers, something your local health food shop simply cannot afford to do. So what’s a skint vegan to do? It’s a double-edged sword, especially for anti-capitalist vegans and those of us who wish to “shop local”.
Of course, there’s the home delivery option too – these days, this isn’t just an option for expectant mums, but it’s a shopping choice that can benefit the elderly, disabled, busy, single parents and lazy gits.
Obviously, supermarkets have got in on the act, but it does mean that more niche products, such as vegan squirty cream (useful for strawberries and sex games) and vegan jelly that aren’t available in Tesco or Holland and Barrett are now just a click away. Quite often, this also benefits the “little guy” when it comes to helping small businesses, but you do have to throw in postage costs – these can be quite large when we’re talking about frozen or refrigerated items.
Companies are now very aware of how important quick and convenient shopping is for most consumers, so any brand worth looking at will have “suitable for vegans” screaming from the packaging. Even the supermarkets have started labelling food properly, consigning the days of reading through endless ingredients lists to history. Some supermarkets are, of course, better at this than others, so I tend to only use those who are consistently reliable in the product marking department. It really is simply a case of good business sense in a competitive market. Vegans should never forget how power “purchase power” actually is and they should actually tell companies why they are avoiding them – it can make a difference.
It also means that significant strides have been made in animal welfare – the ban on battery cages, for example, and the ban on the production of foie gras in the UK. Even if companies themselves aren’t concerned about animal welfare, they care about the fact that their customers do care.
An important aside to telling businesses why you don’t use their products: This also goes for boycotting products for animal testing or parent company reasons. The ethical pond has become very important over the last few years and the “not tested on animals” mark is now as much a marketing tool as it is an ethical guide.
My point is that in a capitalist society, consumers are more powerful than they realise. Writing to companies, voting with your wallet and asking for products to be stocked can make a big difference.