Thankfully someone came up with a name more glamorous than “chickpea water” and the versatile vegan ingredient aquafaba was born.
The thick, gloopy liquid, which many home chefs might pour down the sink after opening a can of chickpeas, grew in popularity among vegans when it was discovered that, once whisked, it has similar properties to egg whites.
Instagram was soon flooded with pictures of vegan meringues and cakes, but over time aquafaba found its way into the world of mixology, and a whole raft of vegan cocktails hit the bar scene.
Fast forward to today and a number of consumer trends are all converging at the same time. The pandemic has changed the way we eat, drink, work and shop, and this has led to an increase in at-home drinking, including experimenting with cocktail making.
Alongside this, there has been a rise in plant-based eating and drinking, with a quarter of British consumers aged 21-30 believing the Covid-19 pandemic has made a vegan diet more appealing, according to Mintel research.
Younger consumers are not alone here. The research also shows a vegan diet is proving more attractive to 12% of all British adults, rising to almost a quarter (22%) of Londoners, since the start of the pandemic.
Alex Beckett, Mintel Food & Drink associate director, says: “People want the world to change for the better right now and they are searching for ways to show compassion.
For consumers struggling to know how to make a positive difference, cutting out animal protein may be seen as a way of tackling the climate crisis, showing compassion for nature, and boosting their own nutrient intake.”
Beckett notes that even before the spread of Covid-19 there was a growing interest in plant-based food and drink across global markets, and the pandemic appears to have accelerated this trend.
Supermarkets have been tapping into the rise in plant-based eating in a big way, with sections all around stores dedicated to vegan products and ready meals.
Waitrose says searches for “vegan eggs” on Waitrose.com surged 45% in the year to June compared to the year before, and customer demand for vegan baking products doubled over a six-month period.
The retailer was quick to ensure it could tap into this lockdown trend while opening up new cocktail-making opportunities for its customers by stocking Oggs aquafaba. As well as being useful for vegan cake making, this comes with suggested serves such as Warming Whisky & Lime Sours and Aquafabulous Oggnogs, a vegan version of an eggnog. Oggs also recently secured listings with Sainsbury’s, Asda and The Vegan Kind Supermarket.
Probably the most significant vegan trend in the drinks world has been the rise in popularity of vegan wines, and the growing consumer awareness surrounding the different production methods.
More winemakers are exploring strategies around ethical and sustainable production systems and for many this has included ensuring wines are produced using vegan-friendly methods. In addition, many existing producers of vegan wines are recognising the need to shout about it, which has led to bolder labelling for vegan wines and improved in-store communications by retailers.
The growing interest in vegan wine led Broadland Drinks to launch its Proudly Vegan range, addressing the need for clearer labelling to its brand name.
Marketing director Liz Cobbold says: “As always with any allergy, health or dietary choices, consumers are looking for really clear, simple and consistent labelling. With online shopping growing rapidly over lockdown, product information needs to be clear and easy to read. Consumers seem to be trading up more in wine and are happy to pay for added value.
“We have an established wine brand, Proudly Vegan, which is designed to make choosing vegan wine clear and easy. This wine has seen sales grow over the past few months and more independent grocers and takeaways offering home delivery have added it to their range – especially where they are offering vegan menus. Not only is the wine itself certified vegan but all the packaging materials are 100% vegan, which is reassuring for consumers.”
Yealands too has noticed a “real shift” in consumer behaviour over the past year or so, with consumers seeing brands that support their wellbeing. The producer’s wines have been vegan-friendly since 2014, when it made the decision to make the shift to using a plant-based fining agent, but the focus in recent years has been about growing awareness.
Anna Wilson, marketing manager, Yealands Wine Group in New Zealand, says: “As consumers have become more focused on their wellbeing they have become more knowledgeable about ingredients and additives. However, awareness around the use of animal products in traditional winemaking has remained relatively low.
“To increase awareness in our vegan status, and that a wine is not traditionally vegan, we have been registering our wines with the Vegan Society UK since August 2019 and have now included a vegan statement or logo on all of our labels to inform at the point of purchase.”
She also notes that the link between vegan and sustainable has become stronger, so it would therefore follow that there is an increase in purchasing of wines that make one or both of these claims. “The link between a vegan diet and sustainability is continuing to strengthen and I believe more consumers and customers will be seeking wines that meet both these requirements. As for Yealands, we are a leader in sustainable winemaking, producing 100% vegan wines, so I would say we are in a strong position to meet the growing demand for vegan wines.
“We have certainly had an increased interest in our vegan wine status from consumers,” she adds.
Wilson says that, while producing vegan wines does not cost the company any more from a production point of view, there is a cost associated with choosing to register wines as vegan.
She says: “The benefit is reassurance for vegan wine drinkers that our winemaking process has been checked and approved as suitable for vegans. Also, making the switch [to using a plant-based fining agent] has widened our consumer base.”
Other producers have been looking at the overarching trend for environmentally-friendly products, within which a vegan lifestyle plays a role. Concha y Toro UK recently launched a duo of vegan certified Cono Sur organic wines in the UK.
Alexandra Price, category & insights controller, says: “The organic Sauvignon Blanc and organic Pinot Noir have been very successful since launch, due in part to the fact they are also vegan. We have further wines in the Cono Sur organic range launching into UK retail in the coming months.”
Price also points to the strong consumer trend towards more plant-based meals, which data shows are mostly being consumed by non-vegetarians. “There is a growing awareness of vegan and vegetarianism which may not be full-time but more something for certain occasions, such as weekdays. There is a strong association between veganism and health, but it is also being seen as something modern, cool and contemporary.”
Anna Grente, Champagnes & Chateaux marketing manager, says the distributor has seen much more demand for vegan wines within the last couple of years. “The changes to consumers trends have been happening steadily over the years,” she says. “As an example, our website now highlights which wines are suitable for vegans in the online wine shop. Ten years ago, this was relevant to fewer of our customers.”
She also notes the majority of the company’s winegrowers have been producing wines that are suitable for vegan customers for years, adding: “More and more vineyards will no doubt adopt methods to produce vegan wines and the dairy-free liqueur sector will also continue to grow. With the production of more plant-based milks, there is no end to the possibility of liqueurs that can be reproduced as vegan or freefrom versions.”
And Jo Taylorson, Kingsland Drinks head of marketing & product management, says it is also making an effort to be clearer in labelling wines that are suitable for vegans.
She says: “This will make the purchase decision simpler for those who follow a vegan – or indeed vegetarian or plant-based – diet. For example, our Vuestro Spanish fizz does not use animal products at any point in the production process and we label it as suitable for vegans. In addition, our new Mix Up range of pre-mixed canned drinks is also suitable for vegans.”