More and more people are professing to a vegan lifestyle for totally different reasons. Many suppliers have pepped up their product ranges with animal-free products in order to be able to address this target group adequately.
pig gazing trustingly into the camera – that is how a clip on the production of fruit gum, which is currently causing a stir on the web, closes. With a clever film shooting that shows the production process of fruit gums, the Belgian TV station, VRT, draws attention to the fact that animal-derived gelatine is used in fruit gum products. Although this cognition is not exactly new, the makers have obviously hit the nerve of the online community. Just a week after the release, the video has already scored around 786,000 hits, a bad conscious all-inclusive. The huge interest in the film is not surprising in an era when a conscious diet seems to be becoming a personal and social obligation. Right at the top of the test bench’s list: The consumption of meat. For some people meat is considered to be a provider of valuable nutrients, as the last link in the food chain and indispensable components of an enjoyable dinner or sociable barbecue party. Others see the suffering of the animals and point out that the excessive consumption of animal proteins is suspected to promote widespread illnesses like diabetes or cancer.
The fact is: Obviously more and more people in Europe aren’t eating meat. According to a survey carried out by the Allensbach Institute for Opinion Polls (IfD), the number of vegetarians in Germany rose by 1.5 mil. between 2009 and 2014 up to 7.75 mil. (around 9.5% of the population. In Sweden, a whole 10% of the citizens do without meat – according to a survey by Pollsters Opinion Poll that dates back to the year 2014. In Great Britain the share of vegetarians among the population was indeed 12% in 2014 according to an investigation by the market research institute, Mintel. The number of people for whom abstaining from eating calf’s liver paté and chicken legs doesn’t suffice, but who instead have even committed themselves to a vegan lifestyle, i.e. not only don’t eat fish or meat, but also no other animal products either, such as eggs, milk or honey, and who make sure that their jackets aren’t filled with down feathers, refuse to take medicines that have been previously tested on animals or drink wine the grapes of which have been transported by donkeys after being harvested and who only use perfume that is produced without the musky cent of the civet cat. Sounds totally mad even in this day and age? Nevertheless, it does actually apply for the consumer habits of approx. 900,000 people in Germany, as the VEBU (German Vegetarian Association e.V.) states – or 658,000 people in Italy (Eurispes 2009), 380,000 people in Sweden (Pollsters Opinion Poll 2014) or 542,000 people in the United Kingdom (Vegan Society 2016).
Just pop off to save the world
Not all too long ago vegans were still considered to be self-righteous nutcases – this image of them has since changed. They have reached the mainstream more and more, celebrities follow a vegan diet, there are several vegan restaurants in almost every bigger city, cookery books proclaim veganism to be the “sexy alternative” and are thus reaching best-seller circulations. Whether in the supermarkets, at events and festivals or sometimes even in front of the football stadium – alternative vegan products can be found anywhere. This is a sign that the needs of the vegan target group are being taken increasingly more seriously and a market is developing around this lifestyle.
The larger the target group, the more different their motifs for adapting to the vegan way of life. Of course, ethical principles, but also motifs such as self-optimisation, fitness and health also play a major role, environmental protection is also an important reason. There is of course malicious gossip that claims the increased tofu consumption here in Germany is leading to more soya plantations being built, which whole areas of rainforest have to be felled for. But that is rubbish: 98% of the worldwide soya cultivated is used as animal fodder not for the production of tofu sausage. Without doubt the animal industry has serious consequences for the eco-system. Environmentalists calculate that around 15,500 litres of water are needed for the production of 1 kg of meat, around 5,500 litres of water for 1 kg of butter, 1,000 litres of water for 1 litre of milk, on the other hand for 1 kg of lettuce, tomatoes or potatoes only between 200 and 300 litres of water is required. According to a survey carried out by Oxford University published at the beginning of 2016, switching over to a vegan diet could indeed save the climate. At any rate, the researchers have come to the conclusion that a world in which everyone was vegan, would sink the greenhouse emissions by 70%.
And even if this isn’t more than just a utopian numbers game – it shows why the theme veganism is pushing its way to the fore in the sustainability debate. There are indeed overlaps in these target groups. Vegans – often younger, well-educated people that live in urban cities – as a rule also tend to pay attention to the sustainability factor when shopping and are interested in environmental themes and social equality. For companies this clientele is definitely exciting: They are young, have high spending power, are prepared to spend money on their lifestyle and they are communicative. However: They are also very critical and accordingly sensitive to address. It’s hardly likely that a vegan will be pleased to be offered a mini salami at an event or a leather bracelet as a give-away.
Many haptic advertising suppliers have thus adapted or expanded their product ranges. Kalfany Süße Werbung as well as the brand partner Katjes also offer vegan fruit gums in addition to the conventional fruit gum specialities, here the gelatine is replaced by apple pectin or gum arabic. “Individuality asserts itself among consumers and customers, who are interested in specialities. We serve all customers with products that suit them and which are made in a certified manufacturing process, is how Klaus Richter, Vice-CEO at Kalfany Süße Werbung, explained the expansion of the product line-up. The company has been making vegetarian fruit gums for 15 years, an internal re-definition of the term “vegan” has however, according to Richter, led to these products being revised again: “Our products are not only free from animal-based ingredients, they are also manufactured without the aid of animal products.” That the raw materials and processing costs are more expensive as a result compared to conventional fruit gums, doesn’t deter premium brand companies or companies from the health care sector, stressed Richter.
Carolin Haverkamp, Key Account Manager at the lip care specialists, KHK, has noted a stronger demand for vegan products since the second half of 2015. At the beginning of last year, the company was one of the first to start offering a natural vegan recipe, where the bee’s wax normally used in lip care sticks was replaced by berry wax. “The berry wax has similar properties so that the lip care stick can be handled in the same way,” stressed Haverkamp. “The recipe is especially suitable for companies that place great value on high quality and sustainability for example. Whether a 5-star wellness hotel in the Alps, sports items manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, dentists and clinics or the organic store on the corner – they are all using the trend theme veganism to boost their positive image.” In order to be able to demonstrate to the user and recipient that the product is vegan in the form of a seal, KHK has registered the item with the Vegan Society and can advertise it using the organisation’s “Vegan flower“.
The cosmetic brush manufacturer, Barbara Hofmann, takes a similar approach, their vegan brushes are also promoted by the logo of the Vegan Society. Around four fifths of the line-up are in the meantime made out of imitation hair instead of animal hair. “This is in line with our philosophy,” stated CEO, Michael Thamm. “We place value on sustainability as well as social and health compatibility.” Many of the woods used are FSC-certified, the products are dermatologically tested, the suppliers are members of the BSCI. The reorientation started a long time ago, among others in order to be able to offer people, who are allergic to animal hairs, a good alternative. In the meantime the demand for explicitly vegan products has constantly grown. “There are no longer any product disadvantages. The synthetic tips of the imitation hair brushes are just as fine as the goat’s hair that is used otherwise. The products are also not more expensive. Sooner or later animal hair brushes will die out,” speculated Thamm.
This will certainly not apply to the same extent for leather products. Nevertheless, NBL Vitolo, an Italian specialist for business accessories made of leather, has reacted to the booming “vegan style” by adding a collection of Ligneah® products, made of wafer-thin, laser-cut wood, to its range of products, which look and feel like leather. “We consciously communicate the collection as being eco-friendly and vegan. The vegan lifestyle is even gaining significance here in Italy. Neither we, nor the promoting companies, want to lose this target group. However, the products aren’t cheap and not every company is prepared to pay the corresponding price,” CEO Federico Vitolo said. As with every form of sustainable management, the switch over to vegan production methods is initially cost-intensive. But it can pay off: The target group and the market are there and what’s more a lot of pigs would finally have every reason to have a trusting look on their faces.
// Mischa Delbrouck
Photo Source: Kalfany Süße Werbung, KHK, Veganz