Working for a drinks consultancy naturally means Dry January is prominent. From the pubs and bars we visit, and seeing their offerings to keep the punters visiting during this traditionally quiet and now, for many, alcohol-free month; to our global clients capitalising on the consumer demand for healthier drinks that extends far beyond just four weeks…not to mention our family, friends and colleagues who are sticking to a booze free January. But 2019 was different for me. Not only was Dry January practically all I heard about, but another movement became bigger than ever I have known. Veganuary.
Until this year, Veganuary was not something I was really aware of…yes, I have vegetarian friends, and understand veganism, but it was not until more recently that this became such a big thing. For those who don’t know, launched in 2014, Veganuary is a charity and movement, inspiring people to become vegan for January, and throughout the year. Its purpose is to reduce the suffering of animals and help the planet – plant-based diets can cut our greenhouse gas emissions, reduce pollution and water usage, prevent deforestation and save wild animals from extinction. It’s also about discovering exciting and sometimes new and delicious food, and ultimately feeling fantastic – cutting out animal products is said to improve health by reducing cholesterol, lower blood pressure and reduce risk of diabetes and heart disease.
According to the Veganuary Twitter feed, a quarter of a million people – and possibly many more who didn’t sign the official pledge – in the UK tried vegan in January 2019. This was in no doubt partly thanks to the Veganuary website, which not only shared great tips on cooking and ingredients to shop for, but also provided an Eating Out guide, covering restaurants in the UK with the best vegan menus. Within this guide of suitable establishments were All Bar One and Wetherspoons, and yet strangely they didn’t shout about the vegan drinks they offer. Yes, away from the Veganuary site and within their bars and pubs they must have been focusing on their Dry January offering for the no-alcohol consumers, but surely the same effort should have been made for the vegans? After all, veganism and vegetarianism is seemingly a massively growing, mainstream trend (no doubt part of the wider health and wellness trend). According to Mintel, the roll-out of vegan food and drinks products around the world has more than doubled over the past five years.
With the rise of ethical consumerism, especially amongst younger consumers, and clearly ever more prominence and human commitment to vegetarianism and veganism, moving forwards can we expect not just restaurants, but bars and pubs to embrace this permanently? And, for example, bars to offer full vegan cocktail menus, in the same way that virtually all restaurants offer vegetarian and gluten-free food menus? Is it time that all bars ensure they cater for vegans with their drinks? Can we expect it to become the norm to see vegan/vegetarian alternatives for egg whites in drinks, and total transparency on menus regarding which spirit brands use animal-derived ingredients to aid e.g. filtration (some do!)?
With ever more savvy consumers using sites such as www.barnivore.com to check out the vegan credentials of booze brands, and vegans generally being a persuasive and vocal group, it will be interesting to see what happens across the bar industry. I believe vegan and vegetarian drinks options will only increase. However, whilst in major trend hub cities such as London, where there are bars and pubs dedicated to vegetarianism and veganism (including Homerton’s The Spread Eagle, and Notting Hill’s Redemption bar which is also ‘dry’), one wonders if this will ever really spread out to the smaller towns and more rural communities. I guess only time will tell…just as time will tell how many of those quarter million people who took part in Veganuary will still vegan by December 2019.
This article was written by Elty Dudley-Williams, Project Director