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Plant-based eaters face ‘vegan premium’ for food

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Written by: Emma Lunn
25/01/2023
Vegans are facing higher levels of food inflation than people who eat animal products, according to an investigation.

A study by the Evening Standard newspaper found that higher levels of inflation at the checkout for vegan food makes it more expensive to switch to plant-based foods.

The Evening Standard analysed more than 100 different vegan products at Tesco, Asda and Iceland. It found that prices have risen by an average of 18% for vegan products over the past year. It said this is “significantly higher” than the average grocery price inflation estimated by retail analytics firm Kantar.

Figures released by Kantar in November 2022 suggested grocery prices had gone up by 14.7% compared to the same period the previous year.

According to the newspaper, the price of vegan pizzas has risen 42%, while vegan meat alternatives are up 23% and vegan cheese is up 28%. Vegan ice cream is up 19% and vegan milk rose 25%.

By contrast, the price of fresh fruit and vegetables, from which the vegan products are made, have risen at a much slower pace, up 6.2% and 11.4% respectively, according to consumer price data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Claire Ogley, The Vegan Society head of campaigns, policy and research, told the Standard: “There does appear to be a ‘vegan premium’ on some products — it would be a shame if [that] put anyone off trying a lifestyle that is kinder to animals and more environmentally friendly.

“Supermarkets should try to incentivise more sustainable choices through ensuring prices are matched or lower than animal product alternatives.”

Meat substitutes

A healthy, well-balanced vegan diet contains a variety of grains, pulses, fruit and vegetables. But for many, including those new to veganism, meat and dairy alternatives also have their part to play. It is these ‘meat alternatives’ which are seeing the biggest price rises. This means vegans can save money if they ditch vegan products like meat-free sausages in favour of whole foods like legumes, grains, nuts, and fresh fruit and vegetables.

Some vegan products appear to have risen exceptionally fast. The price of Asda’s own-brand soya milk drink has climbed 35% to £1.15, while egg substitute is up 50% to £1.50.

An Asda spokesperson told the Evening Standard: “The differing ingredients and manufacturing process of products in our plant-based range are reflected in the price of these products. We are committed to ensuring a variety of products suit all budgets and needs.”

Some studies show that the price of some animal-based products have also risen by more than the average grocery inflation — and by more than the ‘vegan premium’. 

A recent study by Which? found that the price of basic groceries such as butter, milk and cheese, which all come from animals, soared by up to 30% year-on-year in December.

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