If you’ve been in the vegan business world for a while (or even if you’ve been vegan for a while), you are likely well aware of the fact that veganism has long suffered a bad rap in mainstream society and media, often being framed as radical or extreme, or just plain weird.
But in the last few years there has been a definite shift, thanks in large part to the growing awareness of the environmental advantages of a vegan diet, and the vegan business world is a huge player in this shift. In both 2018 and 2019 veganism has been named a top consumer trend. All around the world the numbers of people who identify as vegan are growing, and the business world is responding! According to The Vegan Society, the demand for meat-free food increased by 987% in 2017, and this growth has continued through to 2019.
This change in the market provides both challenges and opportunity for vegans looking to start or grow ethical businesses.
Because of the steadily mounting interest in vegan alternatives (especially in the food sector) an increasing number of large companies (like Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, Cargill and more) are introducing and rapidly expanding plant-based offerings. Most restaurants are offering vegan options, and more businesses are offering vegan alternatives, like vegan clothing and vegan beauty products. As the market opens up, and veganism pushes its way into the mainstream, this presents a challenge for existing vegan businesses: how can small vegan companies stay competitive with the larger companies who are targeting the masses?
But there are a few very important things to remember.
First, the challenges and opportunities of a changing market go hand in hand, and which of these you notice depends very much on how you look at things. The key is to understand that you still retain the competitive edge as a business owned and operated by a vegan. Many customers crave authenticity, so this is the time to start adding storytelling to your marketing practices. Through storytelling you can explain how your ethical values shape the products and services you offer. By providing insight into your business practices, you shift the spotlight from being the “vegan option” to being “the best vegan option” for your customers.
I know at times it can feel like competition is a bad thing but this new reality is a tremendous accomplishment for the movement (including you!) to celebrate. It’s a sign that vegan business is starting to move beyond the trendy label and become an established viable market. This positions the market for greater displacement of non-vegan items and opens the door to more vegan services that will help save the planet and animals. This is a new and rapidly expanding market, and the time is ripe for those wanting to grow their vegan businesses — even small businesses.
Veganism is becoming accepted in the mainstream, creating new niches for all kinds of vegan products and an awareness that veganism is about much more than what we eat.
Another thing to consider is, even if the market is catching up this is still very much a growing trend. There is lots of room for everyone! As ‘vegan’ is becoming a household name and all the reasons for it are working their way into mainstream consciousness, there will be more and more people learning about the importance of ethical businesses — so this is the time to highlight that part of your business.
As we move further along this path your marketing efforts will be able to shift — from basic education of what veganism is to deeper dialogue. The natural pushback that people exhibit when discovering something new might be replaced with the willingness to try. When someone has a niece, co-worker or friend who’s become vegan, they may be more open to what you have to offer. If you don’t have one already this would be a great time to consider incorporating a trial offer, or some way for people to sample your product/service prior to purchase.
Finally, in this age of uncertainty many people are looking for ways to make a difference. As we all know transitioning to a vegan lifestyle is one of the most impactful things you can do for the planet, the animals and your own health. People are ready to hear this message! Use your business to help empower them.
If you’ve been harboring a vegan business dream, this is the time to start getting serious about it. Take your chance – the time is right to start taking those first steps to get in on the action of creating a new more ethical world for us all.