Food & Drink

Compassion extending to our plates: the rise in veganism during lockdown

By Mimi Swaby
August 5 2020, 7.00

The vegan diet has become more appealing to one in five Brits aged 21-30 during the Covid-19 pandemic, with 20% of Brits also reducing their meat consumption, research from The Vegan Society reveals.

While Brits are venturing outside the home again, lockdown’s heightened compassion has extended to our plates and impacted our eating habits.

Research by Mintel Food & Drink added to this by finding the amount of Londoners following a vegan diet has risen to almost a quarter (22%) since the start of the pandemic.⁠

Mintel Food & Drink associate director Alex Beckett said: “People want the world to change for the better right now and are searching for ways to show compassion.

“For consumers struggling to know how to make a positive difference, cutting out animal protein may be seen as a way of tackling the climate crisis, showing compassion for nature, and boosting their own nutrient intake.”

The Vegan Society’s head of communications Sam Calvert said: “People have had more time to reflect during lockdown and rethink their lifestyle and diet.

“One of the key problems regarding lifestyle choices is the practicalities of it can be quite difficult, especially changing your diet which involves a huge time commitment.”

Mrs Calvert suggested lockdown has given people the opportunity to think about and change their diet.

She added lockdown has prompted a huge interest in people taking up more traditional hobbies and interests that improve their mind, and veganism is a natural extension of this.

The Vegan Society’s national survey of 1,000 respondents also found 15% of Brits have reduced their dairy and egg intake during the lockdown period, with plant-based milks being the most opted for vegan alternative.

The single largest reason, 41%, for people to buy vegan alternatives was because their preferred product was not available on the supermarket shelves.

However, environmental, health and animal rights reasons combined outnumbered this with 43%.

Mrs Calvert said many people said they would not have tried alternatives if they had not been forced to due to food shortages and were surprised they had enjoyed what they found.

She added: “We are living in a time of enormous choice. People are finding that a lot of these products are really palatable and actually add to the variety in their diet.”

Mrs Calvert said the overwhelming trend of people who become vegan are females under 35, or even under 25, which is also true with vegetarianism.

Brits reducing their meat and dairy consumption during the pandemic have been sampling alternatives they would not normally buy, the most popular being almond milk (42%), meat alternatives including vegan sausages and burgers (38%), soya milk (36%) and pulses such as lentils and chickpeas (34%).

Mrs Calvert said: “It’s too early to say whether it is going to stick. If you follow previous statistics, vegetarianism rises during food crises related to animals and then when the media attentions move on, people return to eating meat.

“But this particular crisis is still ongoing and still in people’s minds. So this could be something that sticks with them longer.

“If someone has plant-based products for a while and enjoyed them, they are much more likely to experience veganism in the future.”

The Vegan Society spokesperson Matt Turner said: “Many Brits are trying these alternatives for the first time and enjoying them so much that they intend on keeping them in their shopping basket when we return to normal times.”

Made in Hackney (MIH), a plant-based community cookery school, provided an emergency food service to 500 vulnerable people across of Hackney during lockdown.

Founder and project director Sarah Bentley said: “It is about providing food in a supportive and appropriate way in a time of crisis.

“Vegan meals cut across many religious and cultural needs, can be stored longer, have less food hygiene risks and cost less for quality ingredients.”

MIH were upfront with people that the meals contained no animal products and overall had an incredibly positive response.

Mrs Bentley said: “People were surprised how varied and tasty vegan food can be and it’s been a real eye opener.”

The fibrous diet and increased fruit and vegetable intake came as a shock to some clients who took longer to adjust.

Mrs Bentley recalled: “One of our callers had a hilarious conversation with a lady who said the meals were really tasty but they’ve never eaten so many lentils and her husband was having some explosive visits to the bathroom – so could we please decrease the lentils.

“Another man joked if we could send extra toilet roll with the meals as he was more regular than he’d ever been before.”

Featured image of Angelina’s in Dalston and Made In Hackney making and delivering food to vulnerable in Hackney during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. All photos courtesy of Jørn Tomter with thanks

Related Articles