Veganuary: How a hashtag changed the high street

by Izzy Stiven

Monday, January 28th, 2019

Food for thought: Our digital PR agency gets to the root of the plant-based campaign shaking up the food industry

Text is displayed against a background of vegetables to be used in a blog post bu digital PR agency Holyrood PR

JANUARY – a month synonymous with faddy diets and year-long gym commitments made in the midst of a lingering hangover, the membership card destined to end up next to that long-forgotten Holland and Barrett loyalty card.

And I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I’m there with the worst of them when it comes to spontaneous January splurges. On more than one occasion I’ve shelled out triple figures on a top of the range gym kit, filled with the best intentions for a ‘new year, new me’ only for it to end up in the back of the wardrobe, unworn and unloved (or even worse – the super comfy gym leggings become the perfect Sunday afternoon Netflix get-up).

But this year traditional January habits seem to have transcended into something quite different, with crash diets abandoned in favour of the rising popularity of Veganuary.

The ‘try before you buy’ approach to veganism encourages people to ditch animal produce in support of a more sustainable way of living and whilst it is in no way a new concept –  with over 250,000 people from 193 countries taking the month long pledge in 2018 – the campaign seemed bigger than ever this year.

Predicting over 300,000 sign ups in January 2019, the pledge harnesses the power of social media to create online support communities, with members sharing snaps of their plant-based meals using the #veganuary hashtag to inspire and encourage fellow pledgers.

This rising popularity of the campaign has, perhaps unsurprisingly, seen the market react accordingly, with brands offering up their own vegan treats.


Greggs Goes Green

 

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The wait is over… 3.1.19 #vegansausageroll ??

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You would’ve been hard pressed to miss the launch of Greggs’ revolutionary vegan sausage roll earlier this month. From the offset, it seemed to be one of those magic campaigns where all press really is good press – even input from the country’s most infamous Twitter troll only served to fuel people’s desire to get their hands on one of the savoury bakes.

 

 

The light-hearted approach to the marketing campaign seemed to effortlessly afford falling into the ‘holier than though’ label attached to similar vegan alternatives, instead sending out the ‘sausage’ rolls to journalists in beautifully created PR packages designed to simulate the latest iPhone release, perfectly utilising the vibrant social media debate to their own advantage.

And it worked – the vegan treat flew off the shelves nationwide, with the lucky few who managed to get their hands on it describing it as “surprisingly, very nice”.

 

Aside from the obvious success of the campaign, Greggs has done something really special here. Coming in at £1, the ‘sausage’ roll avoids falling into the trap of jacked up vegan prices and instead offers an affordable vegan treat – something I predict they’ll be dining out on for a while to come.

 


Plant-based micro-meals

Following suit, high street giant Marks and Spencer launched its Plant Kitchen range this January. Offering 60 meat-free meals, the range rolled out in stores across the country and has already been heralded as a success – with M&S awarded PETA’s first ever “Vegan-Friendly High Street Retailer” award.

Like Greggs, Plant Kitchen aims to throw off the reputation of plant-based meals as bland and boring and instead features experimental dishes such as Cauliflower Popcorn and Cashew Macaroni – no doubt appealing to the increase in demand for quick and easy Vegan fixes brought on by Veganuary.

M&S are no strangers to the power of social media, seeing similar successes after collaborating with Holly Willoughby on the launch of their AW18 collection – with the star sharing her favourites from the collection to her four million Instagram followers and resulting in the collection’s sell-out success.

Whilst ten years ago it might have tempting to dismiss Veganaury as simply another New Year fad, destined to be long forgotten by the time Valentine’s Day rolls around, the omnipresence of social media in the digital era has allowed for the campaign to make a real and lasting impact of the market.

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Izzy Stiven is a member of the expert PR team at Edinburgh public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Scotland

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Account Executive, Izzy Stiven is part of the multi-award-winning PR team at Holyrood PR, a leading Scottish PR agency

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