The number of trademarks registered for new vegan food and drink products in the UK more than doubled to a record high last year.
Latest figures reveal that companies successfully applied for 107 trademarks in 2019 for everything from ice cream to meat-free burgers – a 128% increase on the 47 recorded in 2018 – as consumer demand for vegan alternatives continued to soar.
They were filed prior to lockdown, but supermarkets have meanwhile reported strong sales of plant-based ranges since the coronavirus outbreak began, highlighting the fragility of the traditional food chain.
The ongoing trend reflects people paying closer attention to their diet during lockdown, increasingly adopting “flexitarian” diets – cutting down on meat and dairy while eating more plant-based foods.
The new trademark figures are compiled by law firm EMW, which says the fast-growing vegan food category is now attracting interest from large multinational businesses with the resources to invest heavily in branded products.
With further innovations in the pipeline, two manufacturers – Upfield and Beyond Meat – have trademarked product names based on variations of “Beyond Butter”, “Beyond Cheese” and “Beyond Mince”. Upfield, the owner of Flora, bought the vegan cheese producer Violife for a reported €500m (£455m) earlier this year.
Daisy Divoka, an associate at EMW, said: “There are now more vegan products on supermarket shelves than ever before. Multinational corporations have identified this as a fast-growing sector and are competing to register their trademarks with the aim of capturing and defending a share of the market.”
Discount supermarket chain Lidl has trademarked a range of vegan products including pastries and baguettes, while restaurant chains Honest Burger and Leon also entered the fray for meat substitutes and plant-based condiments. The furniture chain Ikea will next month start selling “plant balls”; versions of its eponymous meatballs made from pea protein.
Sainsbury’s, which has trademarked its mushroom-based “shroomdog”, reported double-digit growth of its plant-based and meat-free range. Rosie Bambaji, plant-based buyer at Sainsbury’s said: “We expect to see this area continue to grow as we emerge out of lockdown.”
Tesco said it had launched more than 30 new plant-based products across its Wicked Kitchen and Plant Chef ranges in June, including BBQ, Asian-inspired and meal kits. Plant-based barbecue options had proved very popular during the recent hot weather, it said.
Companies can also apply to use the Vegan Society’s sunflower logo, for which they pay a licensing fee based on turnover. A spokeswoman said: “We have only recently starting reporting by category but the number of fashion products registered has doubled so far in 2020. Drinks, household and toiletry products are our next biggest growth categories.”