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Is it cost that’s stalling mass adoption of veganism?

Is it cost that’s stalling mass adoption of veganism?

In an interview with the BBC, Bill Gates said that if more people bought plant-based products, prices would fall. He also said that by sending a signal to the market, that people really do want zero carbon alternatives, and are willing to pay for them, it would make a significant difference.

Are vegans really paying 200% more for vegan alternatives?

Photo: Bruna Branco

Right now, anyone buying vegan alternatives for cream cheese, as an example, will probably be paying around 200% more for this plant-based product. Interestingly the European dairy lobby is actually working to prevent plant-based products using dairy style packaging. I think the reason behind this is that if plant-based producers are forced to come up with a completely new packaging solution costs would be driven even higher, and the dairy industry can rest easier. That’s unlikely to happen as people want change.

Price parity will arrive

However according to Dr Alex Lockwood ‘lessons from other industries’, electric cars as an example, ‘demonstrates that as technology develops, and demand increases, price parity does arrive.’ When you think about it, does it not seem strange that plant-based products should be more expensive than meat products when often there is far less processing involved? Why are we accepting the premium on whole food plant-based products?

Price is definitely a significant driver in the ‘cheap food paradigm’

Promotion of a more plant-based switch include: incentivising innovation, carbon tax, raising awareness, creating real value for farmers’ food will reshape our ‘cheap food paradigm’, especially as we have experienced this ‘cheap food paradigm’, a term coined by Professor Tim Lang, since the 1950s. Therefore, our expectations regarding the cost of food have been shaped by the desire to always pay less. I’m not sure, if everyone realises, but the UK is one of three countries that have the cheapest food markets in the world. For the sake of completion, the other two are Singapore and the US. This means only 8% of a UK household’s budget needs to be spent on food. Therefore, when you consider that consumers in Nigeria for example pay 59% that’s quite a difference and perhaps, we have lost sight of just how cheap food is here. I think it’s possibly the reason why we may well have developed an unhealthy attitude to the food we purchase, consume and waste.

How is the UK food poor when food is so cheap?

Photo: Brenda Godinez

Ironically, although this 8% is extraordinarily low, the UK is experiencing the highest food poverty statistics within Europe. Surely this can’t be right? No, it’s not right, not on any level as this quest for more and more food, produced as cheaply as possible is delivering excess consumption, obesity, poor nutrition and on top of that, continued destruction of the natural world.

Buying one vegan product per week would cost on average £35 extra per annum

On your next shopping trip look around at the sheer volume of choice we see every single day. Look at the number of processed foods that line the shelves. In the UK we eat more processed food than just about anyone else. What is this doing to us? Consider the Type 2 Diabetic crisis and food poverty. I really do believe that price will contribute partly to driving change and already there are green shoots appearing and it will be interesting to chart the cost of vegan food moving forward. Right now, it appears that buying one supermarket product that’s vegan once a week would cost the average consumer around £35 extra per annum. I might hazard a guess that this is conservative.

We need to alert companies that we want change

However, with plant-based product demand growing and with more access to plant based items in mainstream supermarkets, veganism is not quite as niche as it once was. Dr Alex Lockwood suggests that things that may well promote a more plant-based switch might be: ‘incentivising innovation, carbon tax, raising awareness, and creating real value for farmers for their food, will all help reshape our ‘cheap food paradigm’. He suggests we should all keep buying its alternatives because each time we do we inform companies there is a market waiting to be served. What’s your view?

It's obvious that the food and ingredients sector is changing fast. As a consequence, companies need flexible, agile and creative staff sympathetic to the new landscape. If you are looking for high quality talent then I can help.

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