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In season two, episode eight of ColumbusCast, our Food Consultants - Laura Gilbank, Andrew Newton and Chris Nichols - talk about one of the biggest trends we’ve seen over the past decade, plant-based foods and the rise of veganism. This topic was highlighted in one of our earlier ColumbusCast episodes, and today we’ll be addressing the impact it’s having on our food supply chains.


What are the key findings around veganism in the UK?

There are approximately 7.2 million British adults who follow a meat-free diet, and the rise of veganism in the UK is continuing on its upwards trajectory, seeing a 40% increase over the last 12 months. In addition to this, it’s predicted that by 2025, a staggering one quarter of the UK is going to be vegan.

Key factors driving plant-based foods and veganism

  • Animal welfare – eating a vegan diet reduces the demand for animal products, which helps ensure fewer animals are being mistreated and used for testing
  • Push towards healthier diet – covid has been an eye opener for many people in terms of what they eat, how they eat and what goes into their bodies. For instance, consuming high amounts of meat can lead to major health risks such as cancer, with a study finding the risk of developing this was two percent higher for regular meat-eaters compared to low meat-eaters

rise of veganism uk

  • Environmental impact – food companies are thinking more about how they can improve their carbon footprint within their supply chains to meet goals on a national and global scale, including reducing food waste with fruit and veg. You can find out more about this by clicking here

How do these factors affect the food supply chain?

The rise of vegan diets places increased pressure on the food supply chain. For example, consumers not only want more sustainable food options, but they’re also after more transparency into the food they’re buying. All of this is means food businesses must be providing detailed information about their products along every step of the supply chain.

Government supported programmes like the NHS and their involvement with Veganuary also play a major role in dictating food supply chains. With these initiatives driving towards veganism and the health associations with this lifestyle, food businesses will be looking to expand the variety of meat-free products they’re able to offer. However, without the right technology available, this will increase the pressure within production lines to cope with the introduction of new products.

Food retailers will also be affected. With the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, the FSA found traces of meat in their vegan ranges, affecting their brand reputation. Retailers need to ensure their suppliers are well-versed in growing sustainable food and have a proven track record of implementing vegan processes.

rise of veganism uk

Recently, we’ve seen larger organisations buying smaller, independent vegan food manufacturers, allowing them to safeguard against the challenges increased veganism has brought towards the food supply chain and meet demand.

However, Andrew mentions that despite the rise of veganism, there’s still a high demand for meat out there, but aspects such as better cuts of meat, transportation and food safety have gained increased awareness. A lot of manufacturers who use both meat and vegan products need to look back at their production lines to ensure they can:

  • Effectively segregate their vegan and non-vegan products
  • Tackle any food supply chain challenges, such as cross-contamination and the ethical consequences of not meeting industry standards
  • Meet consumer demand for both meat and meat-free products

How can manufacturers better manage their supply chain?

Improve their traceability techniques

With the right software in place, food manufacturers can trace their entire production process from farm to fork, capturing real-time data about how the food was sourced. This allows them to build stronger relationships with their customers, offering transparency and confidence that the products have been ethically produced.

Invest in modern technology

Modern technology provides  , the ability to analyse data effectively, and more. For instance, with the technology available to create ‘cultured meat’, where meat is genetically modified, this provides a gateway for food suppliers to enter the vegan market.

With the assistance of modern technology and automation techniques, manufactures are effectively able to cope with new and existing demand, leading to suppliers being able to increase the variety of food they offer to adapt to the trend of the rise of veganism. This falls down to the ability to handle big data and how they can best utilise it with the help of technology that sits within their operations.

rise of veganism uk

What three qualities enable businesses to better adapt to trends such as veganism?

  • Flexibility – food trends come and go, but with the growth of plant-based foods, businesses need to be ready to react quickly
  • Investing in the right technology – allowing businesses to deliver the right products at the right time with the lowest costs
  • Performing the right due diligence – helping businesses build trust with their suppliers in their supply chain by informing them of any issues in advance (e.g., issues with payments)

Find out more by tuning in to our podcast episode

Scroll to the top of this blog or search ‘ColumbusCast’ in your podcast app to gain more insight on:

  • The factors that are driving veganism and plant-based foods
  • How food companies like Greggs are paving the way to becoming more sustainable, reducing their environmental impact
  • More examples of how modern technology can assist manufacturers when adapting to trends

Alternatively, our infographic explores the challenges the food industry is currently facing, and how this affects the global supply chain moving forward. Interested? Get your copy below.

Download your copy


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