Veganuary movement to welcome 1 millionth participant

Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent
·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Magdalena Bujak/Alamy Stock Photo</span>
Photograph: Magdalena Bujak/Alamy Stock Photo

The global Veganuary movement will this week welcome its 1 millionth participant since the meat-free pledge was launched seven years ago, bolstered by a surge in consumers tucking into more plant-based foods during lockdown.

The UK-based campaign, which has asked people to pledge to eat a vegan diet for the month of January since 2014, said hitting the 1 million supporters’ mark was a huge milestone. The total includes the 400,000 participants who signed up earlier this year, and compares with 250,000 in 2019 and 170,000 in 2018.

Many more people are believed to have taken part in the event without signing the official pledge, and a significant number have continued with plant-based diets beyond January.

In the UK, famous names among the million include the TV presenter Jasmine Harman, actor Peter Egan, wildlife presenter Chris Packham, guitarist Brian May and Deborah Meaden from the BBC show Dragons’ Den.

The charity started in 2014 in York at the kitchen table of its founders Jane Land and Matthew Glover and initially attracted just 3,300 supporters, but it has since mushroomed to become a mainstream movement reflected in product innovation across the British high street.

Signatories now come from every country in the world except North Korea, Vatican City and Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland). The steepest growth in supporters this year has been in Latin America, followed by India.

UK manufacturers, supermarkets, restaurants and pub chains have scrambled to tap into not only the burgeoning vegan market but also the large number adopting “flexitarian” diets - people who enjoy meat and dairy but seek to reduce their consumption. Lockdown has forced consumers to cook more from scratch as a result of restaurant closures, and so to pay closer attention to their diet.

Glover said it was now “a bigger feature in the retail calendar than Christmas, reflecting the ever-increasing number of people choosing plant-based food. One million official Veganuary participants in just seven years is a huge achievement, but the momentum will see us hit 2 million in no time.”

Manufacturers received a major boost on Friday from a vote by European politicians which gave the go-ahead for plant-based products to continue to be labelled “sausages” or “burgers”.

This Christmas consumers can expect a bigger range of festive plant-based foods than ever before, including a ready-to-serve vegan fondue from Waitrose made from nuts and tofu.