A surge in interest in vegan diets is not translating into higher vegetable sales, new research has found.
Retailers and foodservice operators responded to this year’s Veganuary with a raft of new product innovation including KFC’s first permanent plant-based burger and Pizza Hut’s Pepperphoni pizza made from pea protein and vegan cheese.
Yet when measured in total number of portions sold, vegetable sales in January this year actually declined by 6.5% compared with 2016 figures, according to the Food Foundation’s 2020 Veg Facts report. This is despite a 1639.1% increase in the number of people signing up to Veganuary over the past five years, and a 23% growth in the number of plant-based meals eaten over the same period.
The snapshot data reflects a five-year trend which shows vegetable intake remaining fairly static, with children’s consumption particularly low. The amount of people eating less than one portion of veg a day has either remained the same or increased across all age groups since 2016, with almost a third of children under 10 now eating less than one portion of veg a day.
Although the 5-a-day message has been widely communicated, the Food Foundation notes that Public Health England’s recommended quantity, as indicated in the Eatwell Guide, is actually closer to seven portions of fruit and veg-a-day.
The spread of Covid-19, meanwhile, has exacerbated challenges with vegetable consumption. In the six weeks that followed the start of lockdown in the UK, 5m households experienced food insecurity, with 72% of parents receiving free school meal vouchers reporting that they were worried about getting enough veg.
The Food Foundation is calling on policy makers to ensure that two portions of veg are included in every school meal as standard, and for each nation of the UK to push for national fruit and vegetable action plans to support both production and consumption of veg.
Through the Food Foundation’s Peas Please campaign, almost 100 organisations, including foodservice operators, have signed a pledge to make veg more accessible and available.