Vying for vegans: How to tap into the growing vegan market

The vegan market has gone from strength to strength over the last 18 months, as a wave of activism and interest in meat-and-dairy-free products continues to grow, inspired by a host of documentaries, events and celebrities.

One brand who has been capitalising on this is Quorn, arguably the UK’s most popular provider of meat-free products, mainly coming in the form of meat-substitute foods, such as veggie burgers.

Recently, Quorn announced that they would invest £7 million on research and development, as part of a strategy to remain one of the premier brands in a rapidly expanding vegan market. Chief Executive Kevin Brennan revealed in an interview that Quorn has experienced a 12% rise in sales, whilst the global meat-free category is growing by between 10% and 20% a year, and the UK market alone rising by around 15%.

With this in mind, we turned to Starcount’s social analytics platform, The Observatory, to reveal some insights on who and what is at the centre of the rapidly growing vegan market, how Quorn sits within it and who they might need to fend off to remain at the top.

Discover the mindsets behind veganism

A previous Starcount study, Look Good, Feel Good, examined the state of the fashion, beauty and well-being markets across the UK, analysing an audience of nearly 5.5 million people. Following Starcount’s unique methodology of segmenting groups by passions, motivations and mindsets, our data scientists were able to identify 6 unique mindsets within these markets. One of these is the ‘Body-is-a-Temple’ mindset. Individuals within this segment are focused more on feeling great on the inside than looking good on the outside. They prefer a holistic approach to wellbeing and place a high value on healthy eating, often being vegetarian, vegan or gluten free. For the purposes of Quorn’s future, as well as the growth of the vegan market, this consumer group is the perfect use case (this article shall refer to it as the Vegan mindset).

The segment has been growing at a steady rate amongst the other mindsets in the study. However, the really interesting insights come from within the segment itself, where surprising demographics, interest and brands have been rapidly growing in the last year.

Getting to grips with the demographics

Looking at this Vegan mindset, we can see that the largest three demographics, in order, are the 25 to 34 female group, the 18 to 24 female group and the 18 to 24 male group. So far, so predictable, considering how veganism is an increasingly popular trend amongst younger millennials.

The next insight, however, is more of a curve ball: the fastest growing demographic is 35 to 44-year-old males, followed by 13 to 15-year-old females and then 45 and over females. In other words, veganism among middle-aged men seems to be rocketing – a demographic that might not have been the first to jump to mind when considering who might be choosing to go vegan.

Looking at the growth of the Vegan mindset against other mindsets in the study, the number of people talking about veganism on social media is twice as high as those talking about subjects related to the next biggest mindset, Self-Improvement.

So, where does this leave Quorn? By analysing Quorn’s presence, we can see that the brand resonates best with 18 to 24-year-old males. These are prime examples of people who are looking to give up meat by replacing it with substitutes rather than simply cutting it out.

However, the brand resonates worst with females in the 45+ age range and among 16 to 17 year olds. For the latter group, the likely cause is that they are not the individuals doing the food shop and cooking at home. The former helps to cement two ideas: that veganism is primarily a younger trend and that Quorn products, which are mainly meat replacements, are more popular with men, looking for healthier but similar tasting alternatives to meat.

Some healthy competition

Finally, what about the competition? With the vegan market rapidly growing, there are some other notable brands who are gunning for the top spot, most notably Coconut Collaborative, Barfoots and Tideford Organics. Some might argue that because Quorn focuses on meat-replacement products, while these competitors specialise in other types of vegan food, they might not be in direct competition. However, as the vegan market rapidly grows and the choice of vegan lifestyle becomes ever more varied, every brand will be fighting for the loyalty and spend of vegan consumers, no matter what products or services they offer.

While Quorn might be one of the biggest brands in this market, Coconut Collaborative is the fastest growing, with Nutribullet and Riverford not far behind. As these competitors develop, it is likely that they will look to expand into other aspects of the vegan market such as meat-substitutes, potentially putting them in direct competition with Quorn.

The influential vegans

The Observatory has also identified another vital aspect in maintaining a relationship with vegan consumers: the most important influencers. Cook, stylist and writer Anna Jones is the most popular influencer for vegans. Deliciously Ella is also extremely popular, especially among 25 to 34-year-olds, while fitness entrepreneur Cassey Ho of Blogilates is the third most important influencer to this audience. In looking to interact with different segments within the vegan mindset, using influencers will prove crucial to developing relationships with consumers.

Is Quorn’s future secure?

But what does all of this mean for Quorn? The growth of the segment shows that their £7-million-pound investment in R&D is a wise one. The segment, whilst still being small in the overall beauty and well-being audience in the UK, is rapidly growing, with an expanding representation on social media. Brands looking to get a piece of the action will need to move fast to capitalise on this.

The Observatory insights into the biggest vegan demographics groups not only illustrate the audience Quorn need to talk to, but more importantly allows them to be aware that there are less obvious age groups, such as middle-aged men, which are growing quickly and could soon form a big slice of the market.

And as the vegan market grows, so too will the competition, with an ever-increasing range of brands jostling for space and share of wallet. In order to stay ahead, Quorn will need to personalise the experience for different types of vegan consumers and communicate with each in the most effective way, using influencers that resonate most with them.

Quorn’s sizeable investment is a step in the right direction, especially when dealing in such a rapidly growing market. But simply developing the right products won’t be enough. Only by understanding who the different consumers are, what they are looking for and how to talk to them, can brands stay ahead of the competition and dominate the market.

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