The vegan market is doing incredibly well and plant-based options appeal to an increasingly broad audience. Let’s take a closer look at 2021 vegan trends…

What are the vegan trends of 2021 and how to translate them into successful visual communication?

The year 2020 witnessed increasingly high demand for meatless and dairy-free products, the vegan population grew, and the plant-based food market expanded.
Even before the onset of the pandemic, vegan eating was on the rise. The health emergency then boosted the demand for vegan food even further.
Conditions like high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes — which can often be a ticket to the ICU — are pretty rare in vegans. People want to be healthier and lower their risk of suffering from serious Covid-19 complications, therefore the vegan option has become more attractive even among those who hadn’t considering it earlier.

Aside from health-related motivations, for many it’s obviously an ethical choice. Concern for the environment has also played an important role. Sir David Attenborough recently urged: “We must change our diet. The planet can’t support billions of meat-eaters”.
A study carried out in 26 countries by FMCG Gurus and reported by Vegconomist confirms that vegan options are engaging a broader and broader audience.
And that’s not all: the Verified Market Research report predicts even more rapid and substantial growth over the next 6 years.
And over the next six years, even more rapid and substantial growth is expected, predicts the Verified Market Research report.

What are the main 2021 vegan trends and how can vegan brands ride them with their visual communication?

#1 The New Vegans

The New York Times predicts that plant-based eating, online grocery shopping and ghost kitchens are trends that will grow even bigger. Since the pandemic started, plenty of flexitarians and non-vegans have turned their attention to plant-based food and more are expected to follow. This audience might need a different approach as compared to seasoned vegans.
You already know that you can create deep connections with your customers and foster their loyalty by responding to their latent needs. Is your brand thinking about new vegans?
You might even want to meet them right where their pain points are. That’s what Busch Light did with the general public: they offered a year of free beer to couples who had to delay their weddings because of Coronavirus. Besides making the news, they showed the human side of their business and delivered an optimistic uplift.

Visuals

New plant-based enthusiasts will appreciate tips that help them navigate their new diet.
Anything visual (printed or online) that makes them feel less alone (see trend #4) will catch their attention.
Brands that will be at their side while they cook, shop for groceries online, or order vegan food delivery will most likely win their hearts. Visually appealing recipes, guidelines, suggestions, and meal plans will also be greatly appreciated

#2 Get comfortable with uncertainty and remember: eating healthy is more crucial than ever

One thing we know about 2021: it’s particularly unpredictable. We are not sure if the virus threat is going to fade anytime soon. On top of that, the WHO informs us that the Covid-19 pandemic is “not necessarily the big one”.
What kind of future lies in store for us?
We know that things will keep shifting and we will need to keep adapting to new scenarios. Whatever changes are on the horizon, health doesn’t seem to be taken for granted — we’re all going to be a lot better off with healthy bodies! One thing is pretty clear in these uncertain times: the vegan diet is on the rise and plant-based products will keep increasing in popularity. Indeed, Innova Market Insights (global knowledge leader in the food and beverage industry) puts the plant-based trend second on their Top Ten Trends list for 2021.

Visuals

If you want the health-conscious folks to be among your customers, make it clear that you are offering really healthy products (it has to be true, of course). Pretty much anything vegan is on the rise especially because it’s good for our bodies. Show it! Use images and colors that bring this out.

#3 A burst of creativity: be ready to adapt and innovate.

Necessity is the mother of invention. The massive disruption brought by the health emergency has translated (also) into amazing innovation and creativity. We have heard about individuals reinventing themselves with bold moves, like an actor turning his passion for baking bread into a full-time profession. We read about restaurants finding new ways to reach their customers and turning into ghost kitchens to embrace the take-out and delivery options. We have also heard about the incredible popularity of food kits discovered by home cooks during the pandemic and now purchased on a regular basis.
The health crisis has proven to be an opportunity to find new ways to market products and develop better communication with customers. The year 2021 is expected to be uncertain and complex, creativity and innovation will keep having a fundamental role for everyone, including vegan brands.
A great example is the Milanese vegan pastry shop Forno Vegano. They initially only delivered to restaurants, company cafeterias or event organizers. But the lockdown has prevented these establishments from ordering their delicious vegan cakes. And so they have started offering free delivery to private customers too. In the last months, to the great joy of Milanese gluttons, they also added several tempting specialties. Now it’s possible to order a wider selection of mouth-watering vegan cakes, cookies, savory options and custom-made pastries for special occasions. Free delivery, impeccable service.

Visuals

Show the world what makes your products and services unique with eye catching, mouth-watering images. Simple, attractive, straight to the point. Make sure they remember the innovations you introduce

#4 Food as comfort, the missing conviviality

During 2020 we discovered that, no matter what, food is a great comfort. We have been stressed, fearful, worried… we have had to face unimaginable situations and deal with novel, sometimes almost bizarre problems. But through it all, those exquisite eats surely supported us! We indulged in treats, tried out new foods, attempted to emulate our favorite restaurant recipes, figured out the healthiest and most delicious options… Famous chefs agree that people will keep looking for comfort in food in 2021.
But food is actually much more than a treat. For us humans, eating is strongly connected to our sense of community. When we prepare and share meals we also connect, exchange experiences, show hospitality… Lockdowns have deprived us of the pleasure of conviviality and we are no longer able to share our stories and laugh over a plate of spaghetti with friends.
Anything connected with food that could make us feel less isolated has a good chance of being welcomed. Vegan chefs’ online master-classes, for instance, could make viewers feel part of a community and provide a much-needed sense of togetherness.

Visuals

Is your brand providing connecting experiences? Are you upgrading your plant-based products with food-education extras? Are you presenting what you sell as comforting treats that add extra well-being and cuddle into your customers’ life? Don’t show only food, show an atmosphere, a mood, an emotion. Show comfort and pleasure.

Vegan Praline Truffles

#5 From The Industrial Era To The Digital Age: an excellent online presence is now a must, but…

The pandemic has impacted the lives, habits and behaviors of billions of people and accelerated our transition from the industrial to the digital era. E-commerce and online transactions have experienced an explosive growth to unprecedented levels. Online entertainment, video-conferencing, telemedicine, and food delivery have skyrocketed. These habits are now established and brands that do not develop and improve their digital identity may find themselves struggling to satisfy customers’ needs and wants. Many vegan brands are pretty new on the market and ready to optimize their online presence with impeccable customer service, live streaming, video chat, social shopping and more.
But when it comes to innovation, it’s the fashion sector that seems to lead in finding new ways to pamper the customer. For example, in a Vogue Business article we read: “Retailers can also hyper-personalise service using a deepfaked assistant to help with online enquiries who is a customer’s exact demographic and speaks their language. Rather than talk to a faceless bot, shoppers could talk to a “real” face, which could enhance trust”. See what’s unfolding? Will the food sector follow?
The risk in high digitalization is the loss of sensory involvement of potential customers. That’s why it would be a good idea to pursue off-line experiences like Covid-safe samplings.

Visuals

Use pictures and texts that do not simply describe your products but also suggest the sensory involvement connected with the rituals of eating. Spices, aromas textures…

#6 Cities Are Reshaping, distribution must follow

Remote working has quickly become a common practice, just like remote learning. The hordes of commuters and students that used to crowd into trains and public transportation now stay home supported by technology. They no longer all have lunch at the same time in bars or with office delivery.
Stores, cafés and restaurants that developed along major transportation arteries and around destination locations are experiencing a lack of customers and closing down or reinventing themselves.
Cities are reshaping, there is a profound redistribution of population and it’s not something temporary. Even if the virus disappeared tomorrow, remote working would stay because it has proven to bring lots of benefits.
Towns are now worth a visit for much needed personal and professional physical connections and experiences, but the previous routine is very unlikely to fully return.
Among the consequences of this new normal is the need to find a wide variety of foods even in the suburbs or in small towns and villages whose stores normally do not offer it.

Visuals

You already know that there is an increased demand for home delivery of meals and a growing habit of online grocery shopping. Now you also know that it will be increasingly important to reach customers outside of big cities. Make it visible in all your communication.

#7 Cooking

During the first lockdown, Italy experienced a huge shortage of flour and yeast. Apparently, people started baking like never before. Italy, of course, is not the only country where the population adjusted to the new situation by cooking more than usual. Americans also kept themselves busy at the stove in order to cope with home confinement. All over the world people have seemed to rediscover the pleasure of cooking.
The pandemic has pushed us all to learn new ways to live our lives and, although we thought those changes would have been temporary, many of them are here to stay.
It is very likely that people will carry on with their new culinary habits even after the pandemic emergency is over, simply because they have discovered the joy of cooking. It’s creative, healthier and rewarding.

Visuals

Share with your customers basic evergreen vegan recipes or unusual and tempting ideas, meet their new needs and diversify consumption occasions. Quick culinary preparations are likely to be preferred. As we gradually leave the emergency behind, creativity in the kitchen is losing its function of killing time.

#8 Digital Cocooning: pamper your customers

Despite their overall sales falling rather sharply during the lockdown, Victoria’s Secret recorded higher sales in loungewear and sleepwear because more and more people are “nesting” at home.
Social distancing and lockdown obviously restrict our opportunities to socialize in person. We are all living much more in our houses and communicating with the world through technology. What many consumers ask of brands now are products and services that support them in enjoying the coziness of their homes.
Cocooning is the term coined in 1981 by trend forecaster Faith Popcorn and now it couldn’t be more apropos. At the time, she defined it as “the impulse to go inside when it just gets too tough and scary outside. Cocooning is about insulation and avoidance, peace and protection, coziness and control — a sort of hyper-nesting.”
If this translated in 1981 into staying home and trying out Martha Stewart recipes, the modern cocooners organize their professional and private lives online and demand fast and competent service.
Vegan brands that want to reach out to their potential and current cocooner customers, need to optimize the online experience. That means fast, entertaining and fun websites with impeccable customer service. It also means offering really cool and memorable online content suitable for being enjoyed in one’s personal cocoon. Introducing social shopping wouldn’t hurt. Also, a remarkable social-media presence could help, including Tik Tok with its popular vegan influencers. Don’t forget the real-time, audio-based new social-media on the rise: Clubhouse. It’s still in Beta and by invitation only, but the vegan presence is already pretty high and the funders anticipate that the media will develop the possibility to sell directly on that platform.

Visuals

Pleasant, entertaining images for your entire online and offline presence will distinguish your brand among your competitors. Brands that find ways to cuddle cocooners while keeping them away from digital screens will definitely be winners: digital fatigue is affecting many. Printed material?

#9 Less processed Vegan Fast Food and ready meals

In 2020 we saw the fast food industry offering meatless menu options and working hard to win over vegan customers. In 2021 we will probably see more non-vegan brands doing this, following the lead of McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut and KFC. Meanwhile, many customers have moved beyond the hype and excitement of novelty and want more quality. Finding cruelty-free options on the menu is great, but not enough. Many people want to eat less-processed and less-refined food. Something similar is happening in two growing trends among the general public: Brain Food (ingredients that enhance your mental focus and clarity) and Sleepy Time Eats (natural ingredients that promote a good night’s sleep). Also adaptogens (substances that seem to have anti-fatigue and antidepressant proprieties) have made their way into our food habits and will probably stay for a while.
Not only does the market demand very healthy food (remember trend #2) but also fine delicatessen food that helps us cope with uncertainty and stress. In this scenario, there is little room for hyper-processed products — at least not for the health-conscious consumer.
There has been quite a debate and even polemics on highly-realistic and highly-refined meat alternatives.
On the one hand, products that look and taste like meat do appeal to meat eaters and save lives, on the other, vegan hyper-processed food doesn’t make much sense.

Visuals

Less processed options seem to be the way to go in 2021. Make it clear in your communication, show the ingredients too.
In order to keep tempting meat eaters, you could use visual language that appeals to a burger-oriented mindset.

#10 More vegan options and meatless meat in restaurants, delivery, supermarkets and catering: can you cope with it?

Good news for chocolate lovers: vegan chocolate is expected to rule in 2021. But there is more. During the last years, we have seen major supermarkets expand their vegan sections with new products. This is apparently going to continue. The British supermarket giant Tesco, for instance, is recording impressive growth in plant-based foods sales. No wonder they keep expanding their vegan product range: vegan milks, a wide variety of plant-based cheeses, more meatless steaks and sausages. They also announced their goal of boosting sales of meat alternatives by 300% over the next five years.
Vegan seafood is expected to be quite popular. Peta UK published a list of 14 fishless fishes and more are on the way. Also plant-based chicken is on the rise and pork is about the become more widely available.
Although many vegans have absolutely no inclination to seek food that looks, smells and tastes like meat, faking the flesh of a dead animal seems to be the way to conquer a huge portion of the public.
Same thing about increasingly available chickenless eggs (vegans always put the chicken first!).
Vegan food sales are soaring in the catering sector too and online and mobile food-ordering is registering the same. Grubhub, for instance, after analyzing orders from over 30 million diners, announced that the popularity of meat alternatives soared by 463% in 2020. Among the most in-demand vegan orders: tofu spring rolls, plant-based burger, black bean tacos, vegan chocolate cake.
Now, with an increased demand for and supply of vegan products, potential customers are becoming more selective. Things like a more sustainable packaging, an ethical approach, attention to food waste… are already making a difference for the ethical consumers. The same can be said about the deliciousness of eats for vegan foodies or less processed and refined food for health-conscious consumers.

Visuals

In this expanding and competitive market, the way products are presented is really important. This is where visual marketing plays a big role. Make sure your visual communication is mouth-watering and arouses a desire to taste that dish. Remember: a good picture makes you sell more.

#11 End of the health emergency, desire for conviviality

The most wanted among 2021 vegan trends! This is a trend that everyone would like to see exploding as soon as possible, but no one knows how long it’s going to take and if it’s even going to happen during 2021 (Dr. Fauci expects masks will still be needed in 2022). In any case, when the emergency finally is over, people will want to burst into celebration and enjoy the company of other human beings. Well, it also depends on the political situation… Anyway, coming out of the cocooning there will be Coronavirus PTSD cases and the adjustments might take a while. Nevertheless, once again food will be a powerful way to socialize, share important moments and heal from isolation. Brands that have established a good connection with their customers during the hard times will most likely keep being an important presence in people’s lives in times of joy and celebration.

Visuals

Even if it seems that it’s not going to happen anytime soon, keep something on the back burner. Maybe just a few ideas of images and copy. You now have time to plan (maybe just fantasize) the impact you want to give once the right time comes.

That’s it, for the moment, about 2021 vegan trends and how to translate them into successful visual communication. How did you like this article? Feel free to share it on social media and also read what Vegan Clicks has to offers and why it exists.