Vegan and plant-based foods are the fastest growing category of foods that people are ordering in, according to leading food-delivery companies in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Delivery services enjoyed increased popularity during the coronavirus lockdown, and with it, they enjoyed increased access to data on what foods people are bringing into their homes.
“We were pretty surprised to find that one third of our customers are adding plant-based products to their carts,” said Laurentia Romaniuk, a trends expert for San Francisco-based Instacart, “so that was quite exciting to us.”
In the UK, vegan orders were up 107 percent in the first quarter of 2020 over Q1 2019, said Elena Davis, a senior commercial manager at Deliveroo. (First quarter results are boosted somewhat by Veganuary publicity). In the first quarter of 2021, they were up 163 percent from 2020.
“The vegan and plant-based space has been really interesting for Deliveroo,” Davis said this week at the Vegan Women Summit. “It’s been the fastest growing category for us for the past three years. And it’s something that we’re not only seeing in London and big cities but also across the UK.”
Up to 15 percent of Deliveroo orders for pizza and burgers now include vegan items.
In the U.S., the move toward plant-based foods seems to be led by almond milk, according to Instacart’s data:
“Most customers, when they first add a plant-based product to their cart, it’s going to be an alt-milk product, and typically that is going to be almond milk,” Romaniuk said. But almond milk seems to be the gateway food to other plant-based products, and Impossible Foods—known for its plant-based meats—is the leading single brand in the category.
“If they’re buying almond milk or other plant-based milks, they’re going for other vegan products,” she said, “and if they are customers that blend their goods, they’re typically buying for their family. There might be one individual at the home who’s plant-based, or there might be a flexitarian at home, and they’re building a cart for the whole family.”
Customers under 35 prefer plant-based milks, while customers over 35 prefer conventional milk, she said. The top search terms for these products are “vegan,” “vegetarian,” and “dairy-free,” she added, and not the industry term “plant-based.”
In the U.S., plant-based foods have traditionally been most popular on the West Coast, Romaniuk said, but now the biggest growth is happening in the East.
Instacart picks up and delivers groceries in the United States and Canada. Deliveroo picks up and delivers from grocers and restaurants in the UK, where Deliveroo’s data shows that more people are ordering veganized fast-food classics, Davis said.
“We’re already seeing a lot of this on our platform. For example, Burger King is a great example. They’ve got a vegan fillet and a plant-based Whopper, and those are driving a significant proportion of their sales.”
Restaurants and grocery stores that don’t carry vegan products may be “missing out on roughly 20 percent of orders and potentially a whole lot of customers who are up for grabs,” Davis said.
“Customers want brands that stand for something and that allow them to indulge without compromising on taste—absolutely, taste is always non-negotiable—but then those brands that offer something else, and that are good for the planet, good for our health, and as good as possible to animals.”