Interviews

Veganuary US: “We Have Participants in All 50 States, Interest is No Longer Confined to Cities Like New York and LA”

Since starting out in the UK ten years ago, Veganuary has surged in popularity worldwide — particularly in the US, where the campaign is now taking place for the fifth time.

The country has the highest number of participants of any nation, and over 400 American businesses took part last year. In 2024, a variety of restaurants are offering Veganuary menus, with new options such as pizzas, salads, and sandwiches.

With a significant proportion of participants remaining plant-based for good after taking part in the challenge, Veganuary is driving a meaningful shift in dietary patterns, prompting many food service outlets to continue offering vegan dishes after the month is over.

Veganuary US Director Sandra Hungate told us more about this incredible momentum and the highlights of the 2024 campaign.

Veganuary Whole Foods
© Veganuary

Veganuary’s popularity has continued to grow in the US. What factors do you believe have contributed to this growth?
Yes, it has!

I believe the secret sauce to Veganuary is its welcoming, non-judgmental approach to trying vegan, which invites people from all walks of life to sign up and talk about it!

As research continues to show that eating plant-based is best for health, our planet, and animals, more and more Americans are wanting to give vegan a try. A new study conducted in December 2023 by YouGov on behalf of Veganuary reported that 71% of all US adults are hoping to eat more vegetables in 2024.

We continue to get more people and institutions spreading the word: Celebrities (our latest celeb supporter being actor Richa Moorjani), health and fitness leaders (including supporter and NBA coach Joseph Blair), as well as politicians (like the Mayor of Baltimore, MD, Brandon Scott, who proclaimed the month of January as Veganuary), nutritionists, health experts, and even employers (in the form of the Veganuary workplace challenge). They all help create awareness for Veganuary across the country!

The huge number of businesses getting involved in Veganuary each year has also contributed to our growth. Well-known chains like Mellow Mushroom, Just Salad, Blue Sushi Sake Grill, and Rush Bowls are rolling out new plant-based options annually, meaning that Americans can now find Veganuary specials coast-to-coast.

Veganuary USA pizzas
© &Pizza

What are the Veganuary 2024 highlights in terms of product or food service launches, in your opinion?
We keep seeing new ones daily! A few to look out for are:

  • Just Salad launched a limited-time vegan recipe created in partnership with Amanda Cohen – chef and owner of Dirt Candy, the award-winning Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant in NYC.
  • &Pizza added two new vegan pizzas featuring Daring Chicken, named The Sheriff and Hot in Here.
  • Select Hard Rock Cafe restaurants nationwide are offering Veganuary menus. For example, at the Hard Rock Cafe Broadway location in New York City, the restaurant’s Local Veganuary menu features Cauliflower Wings with vegan ranch sauce and Mushroom Primavera Pasta. In Hard Rock Cafe Washington, D.C., the menu will include Cauliflower Wings and Chili Sin Carne Tacos, while in Chicago, the menu will feature Courgette and Guacamole Bruschetta, Quinoa Mexicana Salad, and Cauliflower Wings.
  • Ben & Jerry’s launched a non-dairy version of their Strawberry Cheesecake flavor.
  • Oatly launched two new products: Unsweetened Oatmilk and Super Basic Oatmilk.

Another highlight is the recipes that influencers shared on social media, cooking or baking with the Veganuary Vegetable of the Year, the purple sweet potato!

Can you share any insights on the demographic changes among participants in Veganuary in the US over the years?
The biggest shift we’ve noticed over the years is that interest in trying vegan is no longer confined to cities like New York and Los Angeles. We have had participants in all 50 states and have noted strong participation in Texas and across the Midwest. This is also reflected in the businesses taking part, as well as the media coverage.

While reasons for participating in the pledge are diverse, health and wellness continue to be big motivating factors among Americans. The popularity of Netflix documentaries like The Game Changers and You Are What You Eat have seemingly reinforced these motivations. We hear from numerous participants each year who share incredible stories about health transformations, and 47% of Veganuary 2023 participants reported improvements to their overall health.

The Game Changers documentary
© The Game Changers

How have you seen companies successfully use Veganuary as a marketing tool to promote vegan products in the US? Any examples?
Veganuary continues to drive corporate change by working with brands, restaurants, and retailers throughout the year to help them create, launch, and promote new vegan products. The more convenient and available vegan options are, the easier it is to achieve plant-based goals!

The restaurant chain &Pizza is a great example of a non-vegan restaurant that has utilized Veganuary to connect with a wider audience. They wanted to see what was possible and went all out, by launching a full-on Veganuary marketing campaign with new vegan menu items including Daring chicken, hosting a Veganuary kick-off event, and a launching special offer. Their Director of Culinary, Joseph Fahey reported: “At &pizza, we’ve long featured a plant-based mozzarella and sausage crumble, complemented by a variety of veggies. While we’ve always taken pride in being a go-to spot for delicious vegan pies, many potential fans were unaware of our existence, let alone our diverse plant-based offerings. Thanks to Veganuary, we’ve successfully elevated awareness of our vegan menu, attracting new customers and expanding our reach in the process!”

Another great example is Blue Sushi Sake Grill, a popular sushi chain with locations across the Midwest. Plant-based options added during Veganuary have been such a success that some are now available on the menu year-round. Nestor Rebolledo, Corporate Chef at Blue Sushi Sake Grill, told us, “Veganuary was an extremely successful campaign that brought awareness to vegan sushi and allowed guests to try new plant-based seafood options that we featured including our much-anticipated vegan shrimp.”

Pete Speranza, the CEO of Wicked Kitchen told us: “We are clearly seeing momentum in the market that we attribute to Veganuary in helping educate and inspire people to try eating plant-based. January is a big month in changing food habits and instead of thinking ‘diet,’ consumers are now thinking about environmental impact. This is in large part due to the Veganuary campaign. The growth numbers are incredible and we’re truly proud to support this success.”

Veganuary billboard times square
© Veganuary

What trends have you noticed in consumer behavior in the months following Veganuary?
As of our 2023 6-month participant survey, 80% of those participants who were not vegan when they signed up for Veganuary have largely reduced their intake of animal products, including 28% who have eliminated animal products completely.

96% of those who are not fully vegan said they’re likely to try a vegan diet again in the future.

How have retailers adapted their strategies to capitalize on the increased interest in vegan products during Veganuary?
We’ve seen retailers like VitaCost, London Drugs (Canada), and New Seasons Market highlight and/or discount their plant-based options for Veganuary to make it easier for Veganuary participants to shop there. London Drugs even had a dedicated Veganuary display to help customers easily locate plant-based products.

Retailers have also been posting vegan content in their newsletters, blogs, and social media to encourage their consumers (and even some of their employees) to try Veganuary. Costco printed an article about Veganuary in Costco Connection magazine – which goes out to all Costco members – encouraging customers to sign up.

In what ways do you think the Veganuary movement influences the US market in terms of product development and consumer awareness?
Every January, businesses around the world are launching more, bigger, and better vegan menus to capitalize on the huge popularity of Veganuary.

The buzz created by the campaign is unmissable; #veganuary has now been viewed more than 1.1 billion times on TikTok, major US media outlets report on veganism all month long, and celebrities shout about Veganuary on social media. This increased awareness of the positive impact of a plant-based diet inspires huge numbers of sign-ups each year (we’ve had more than 3 million participants since we launched in 2014), which in turn motivates businesses to launch and create products that meet consumer demand. In 2023, more than 1,610 new vegan products and menus were launched for Veganuary.

Veganuary participants
© Veganuary

What advice would you give to businesses looking to maximize their engagement with Veganuary in the US?
The plant-based sector is growing fast, and the word about the negative impact of animal agriculture on health, the environment, and animals is spreading too, so now is the time to leverage that momentum, while new vegans are looking for their new go-to brands.

Veganuary is free to participate in; businesses can use the term Veganuary, and our logo, to help customers find their plant-based options. There are templates, examples, and guidelines available in the Veganuary Business Support Toolkit.

Based on current trends, how do you see Veganuary evolving in the US in the next few years?
In the UK, where the campaign launched 10 years ago, Veganuary is truly a household name. Major UK grocers have told us that Veganuary is now a bigger feature on their retail calendars than Christmas! The US is of course a much larger country, but our foothold in the corporate world is increasing each year, and in 2023 over 450 brands took part. This year marks our fifth US campaign, and it’s been incredible to see the number of brands, restaurants, and retailers engaging with Veganuary. In the near future, I foresee Veganuary growing to the same level of saturation we’re seeing in the UK, where major chains and retailers see January as an unmissable moment to roll out new vegan options.

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