South African Companies Embrace Veganuary
Retailers, restaurants and food manufacturers get behind the global campaign that saw more than half a million people sign-up to try a vegan diet in January.
With the backing of big names like Jane Goodall, Paul McCartney and Ricky Gervais, it’s not surprising that Veganuary – the campaign to get people to try out a vegan diet in January – managed to attract over 580,000 people to sign-up. What may be surprising to some South Africans though, is how well the campaign, and the idea of meat reduction in general, is doing in meat-loving South Africa.
Traditionally, messaging around eating less animal products came primarily from animal rights activists, focusing on ethical arguments for not eating animals. Looking at the 2021 Veganuary campaign it is clear that things are changing. There is a lot more focus on the multiple benefits of eating a more plant-based diet, the message is coming from more mainstream sources, and there is a bigger emphasis on highlighting the available alternatives to animal products.
ProVeg South Africa, the official local NGO partner for Veganuary, highlights 5 key benefits of adopting a more plant-based diet in what they call the 5 Pros of being pro-veg: Health, Environment, Food Justice, Animals, and Taste. According to the organisation’s director, Donovan Will, awareness of these benefits has been a key driver in the popularity of plant-based diets; “Our research shows that the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and then the environmental benefits, are the main reasons that South Africans are becoming interested in moving towards a more plant-based diet”.
Despite there being so many benefits of eating a more plant-based diet, Will suggests that there’s another factor that may be playing a significant role in the growth of the plant-based movement; “Taste is still the leading factor that determines what people eat, so even after finding out about the benefits of a plant-based diet, many people won’t make a change unless they have an alternative that they enjoy as much as meat, so I think it’s fair to say that the increase in the availability and quality of alternatives that mimic the taste and texture meat is playing a huge role in getting people to move towards a more plant-based lifestyle.”
The Veganuary campaign in South Africa is indicative of the changes in the movement. With household names like Pick n Pay, Food Lovers Market, John Dory’s and Hudsons getting behind the campaign, it could not be more mainstream. And all of these players were promoting great tasting alternative products.
Nicki Russell, head of product merchandise at Pick n Pay says, “We are noticing more customers experimenting with plant-based alternatives. They want a greater choice that is more accessible and at affordable prices, so we have stepped up to deliver that. Last year we piloted dedicated plant-based destinations in selected stores – across fresh, frozen and pantry items – and it proved very popular. This year we will expand our plant-based range of PnP own brand, as well as work with other brands to bring customers more exciting products, such as the Oumph! and LikeMeat products.”
Although plant-based food is currently a global trend, it seems clear that campaigns like Veganuary are having a direct influence on the food industry. A prime example of this is Hudsons – The Burger Joint. Ross Collins, one of the owners of Hudsons actually did Veganuary in 2018; “Veganuary is personal to me as the owner of Hudsons as we always had a vegan burger on the menu but the excitement only really hit me when I did a Veganuary in 2018. This opened up a whole new world of eating options for me that I never knew were possible.” Says Ross.
The influence of this movement isn’t limited to meat alternatives. Food Lover’s Market ran multiple Veganuary specials – including discounts on Almond Breeze, one of the best milk alternatives on the market in South Africa. John Dory’s introduced vegan sushi for Veganuary, using plant-based Prawn-Style Pieces made by Durban based meat replacement firm The Fry Family Food Co., better known as Fry’s.
Fry’s, who were global sponsors for the 2021 Veganuary campaign, have been selling plant-based products in South Africa for 30 years. They were not surprised to see so many large companies offering more plant-based options and embracing the campaign. “South African consumers are understanding more and more that plant-based foods are an important part of a sustainable future, not just environmentally, but for their health too – and this is starting to reflect in the choices that future forward brands are making,” says Tammy Fry, Director at Fry’s.
Other local supporters of Veganuary included B-Well Foods, who make egg-free mayonnaise; V-Foods, who import the popular Violife Vegan Cheese Range as well as Nature’s Charm, which has alternatives like Coconut Custard and Oat Milk based Condensed Milk; Outcast Foods, who make healthy Falafel and Flapjack pre-mixes; Liquid Concepts, who import the Lab Milk range of plant-based milks, and produce a range of vegan frappe mixes; and Rugani Juices who produce juices whose veggie juices can count as one of your daily servings of veggies.
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About ProVeg South Africa
ProVeg South Africa is the South African chapter of ProVeg International, a food awareness NGO working to transform the global food system by replacing conventional animal products with plant-based and cultivated alternatives.
ProVeg is South Africa’s go-to organisation for any media covering veganism or plant-based food including, but not limited to:
– the benefits of plant-based diets
– the relationship between the food system and pandemics
– how to follow a plant-based diet
– plant-based diets for athletes
– the environmental benefits of plant-based diets
– the health benefits of plant-based diets
– where to find the best plant-based food and products
– where to find the best plant-based restaurants
– plant-based businesses and plant-based consulting
– the growth of veganism and flexitarianism locally, and around the world
– plant-based for weight loss
– plant-based diets and food security/food justice
– plant-based recipes