Special Edition: The rise of vegan/plant-based chocolate

Global study shows 60% of Gen Zs expect plant-based chocolate as Veganuary hits new milestone

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Barry Callebaut's dairy-free coins are gaining currency in the confectionery industry during Veganuary. Pic: Barry Callebaut
Barry Callebaut's dairy-free coins are gaining currency in the confectionery industry during Veganuary. Pic: Barry Callebaut

Related tags vegan Veganuary plant based

New research from Barry Callebaut on how the confectionery industry is responding to the Veganuary movement reveals plant-based indulgence is enticing more consumers to try alternatives - but taste is a key motivation in their choice.

With more than 582,000 people from 209 countries signing up for ‘Veganuary’ last year, the campaign started nine years ago from a kitchen table in York, England, hit a new milestone with more than 2 million people from around the globe taking the pledge.

The Veganuary campaign launched as a nonprofit organisation in the UK in 2014 to educate consumers on the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle, encourage them to try it for a month and support them on the journey.  Signups are highest in the UK, with the US, India, Germany and Argentina having a significant presence.

Organisers say participation in America has become so popular there is now a US branch, which attracted 80,000 sign-ups in 2018.

Research from the UK vegan and free-from chocolate brand NOMO reveals that Brits say giving up chocolate is one of the biggest barriers to trying Veganuary. A quarter say they have tried or plan to try Veganuary – with a fifth doing so this year either for the first time or as a repeated experience.  

Jacqueline Tyrrell, Brand Manager of NOMO, said: “The research shows that Brits are becoming increasingly open to a vegan diet with many opting for a flexitarian approach. It is brilliant seeing more and more consumers trying vegan chocolate as it becomes widely recognised that eating vegan is no longer about compromising on taste. NOMO offer all the flavours and formats that are available in mainstream confectionery so it easier than ever to make direct swaps. We are especially proud that all our products are suitable for vegans and allergy sufferers, so no one misses out on the taste of delicious creamy chocolate!​”  

What consumers expect from plant-based treats

New global research on plant-based indulgence across confectionery, bakery, pastry and ice-cream commissioned by Barry Callebaut, backs up many of the findings with the release of a new survey that shows that three out of four (74%) respondents aged 18 to 44 claim to eat plant-based chocolate occasionally.

In the same time last year similar research in Western Europe discovered only 25% said they consume plant-based or vegan chocolate options. But by the end of 2021, almost two thirds (64%) of consumers in Western Europe say they sometimes consume a plant-based chocolate product.

Globally, the key motivations to try plant-based chocolate treats are health (43%), liking the taste (41%), and bringing variety to their diet/trying something new (34%), ahead of concerns about climate change and animal welfare.

While three quarters (76%) realise plant-based food can taste differently, only 12% say it is because of allergies. In the UK, the motivations are similar with health (43%), taste (43%) and variety (32%) ranking first. Globally, the key barriers to eating plant-based chocolate are: taste concerns (28%), price too high (25%) and (19%) say they don’t know enough. In the UK, price is the top concern (34%) even before taste concerns (30%).

Barry Callebaut said Millennials and Gen Z (aged 18 to 44) are more likely to actively look for a plant-based diet. The research shows that six out of 10 (60%) expect food brands to offer a plant-based option versus four out of 10 (43%) for Gen X and Boomers (aged 45 to 75).

On average, four in 10  global consumers say they have been consuming more plant-based products over the last 12 months. When asked to think about the future, almost half (44%) of global consumers expect to increase their consumption of plant-based products. That is almost three out of four (72%) for flexitarians. For the UK, the picture is similar, and in regard to the near future, almost half plan to eat more plant-based foods.

Sofia Popova, Marketing Director EMEA at Barry Callebaut, said: “Various consumer research shows plant-based chocolate is getting more interest. Consumers today simply expect every brand to offer a plant-based option and they welcome a variety of flavours and textures. For a lot of brands across food categories the journey only starts now. A confectionery or biscuits shelf today is very far from yogurts, milks or ice-cream in terms of choice of plant-based offers. That is why this Veganuary we open a pop-up shop to invite brands to explore what their next plant-based innovation could taste like.​”

Pop-up ‘PlantCraft’ shop

Throughout  'Veganuary', Barry Callebaut is running an online pop-up shop​ to celebrate the plant-based boom. Brands can explore a wide range of delicious plant-based creations in confectionery pastry, bakery, drinks & ice-cream. Over 50 indulgent treats imagined by chefs are available to shop or to download the recipe books.

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