Veganuary at risk as brands battle supply chain shortages

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Vegan meat maker Beyond Meat, meanwhile, pointed to increased transportation costs and higher warehousing costs. Its shares are down almost 60pc in the past six months.

Small firms face worst blow

But Weston says smaller companies are likely to be piled under even more pressure.

While large businesses can “absorb a temporary price increase in some of their key inputs and can afford not to pass it along to retail partners”, smaller and medium sized companies cannot, he says. “They’re also the first to be dropped by key suppliers because the Nestles or Unilevers of the world will buy up all the available supply of an ingredient.”

Disruption is starting to feed across into supermarkets. For years more space has been set aside for vegan options, with a fifth of ready meals sold by UK supermarkets being plant-based or vegetarian last summer. 

Yet Chantelle Adkins from the Vegan Society says labour woes have meant certain product lines have been pulled from factories, while shipping turmoil has resulted in fewer American-branded vegan items making it over to the UK. “Actually, I’d say we haven’t seen fully stocked shelves since the pre-pandemic days.”

Ultimately, what this means is that vegans or those trying out veganism may struggle to find everything they’re after.

While some options are vanishing from shelves, other vegan food companies say they are confident in getting items into supermarkets.

Stockpiling may save Veganuary

British plant-based meat alternative company THIS says it has been stockpiling its sausages, meatballs and chicken in preparation for a busy January. 

“We’ve learnt that we really need to hunker down and get ourselves ready for the tidal wave of demand that seems to come in January,” says co-founder Andy Shovel. 

“Six or nine months ago, things were fairly disgusting in terms of the magnitude of challenges that we were facing. But, what we’ve done now since summer is volume-load, so make products and then store them frozen ready for retailers, because we knew Veganuary was looming.”

Quorn, too, has been undertaking “careful planning”, and readying stocks to make sure it has enough going into the busiest weeks of the vegan calendar.

Efforts are perhaps more rigorous than usual. Quorn was, after all, the supplier for the Greggs vegan sausage rolls and had faced a “short term supply issue” to get the filling to the baker.

Still, marketing director Riley seems upbeat. “We don’t think there’ll be any shortages at all. At the end of the day, we want to make sure we’re able to have our products available to make that transition to vegan as easy as possible for people.”

People shifting towards more plant-based diets are one thing. But Williams, a vegetarian for 36 years and a vegan for three, is more eager than most that Quorn delivers on its ambition.

He says that “being vegan, there isn’t much choice when it comes to a quick savoury snack”. And when already limited items aren’t on the shelves, many people notice – and fast.

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