Battle for the vegan pound: Supermarkets are fighting to launch vegan ranges – but are they any good?

14 January 2018

Last year, I rightly predicted that 2017 would be the year of the vegan.

It sure was with the opening of places like Temple Of Seitan, the all vegan Livin' On The Veg KERB events and more chains creating vegan menus.

Well 2018 is taking it up a notch, with UK supermarkets clamouring to cash in on the vegan pound.

Tesco has launched a vegan range called Wicked Kitchen, developed by chefs and brothers Derek and Chad Sarno of Wicked Healthy.

Their vibe is veg centric – leading with the natural flavours you can get from vegetables rather than trying to imitate meat.

The Wicked Kitchen range includes 18 vegan dishes ranging from ready meals to sandwiches, which will hopefully double within a year.

Derek told me it was developed for meat-eaters.

He said: 'We don't need to make vegans more vegan.

'Meat-eaters are going to love it. I want to be satisfied with vegetables as a former meat-eater.

'If we lead with flavour, it can be the gateway drug to health and wellness.'

The dishes are definitely inventive – using cauliflower on the base of the BBQ mushroom pizza and creating pastrami out of carrot.

The fiery tofu sandwich is another level too – packed full of savoy cabbage, red onion, spinach and really flavourful tofu on rye bread, you definitely feel you're getting your £3 worth.

The sweet potato pakora wrap also stands out with a decent level of spice and more flavour than your average shop-bought wrap.

The pizzas, including caponata and BBQ mushroom, may be without cheese but they are an absolute droolfrest.

From what I've tried, I'm generally impressed and can see the range tapping into the non-vegan market, even if it starts with anxious relatives stocking up for when the pesky vegans arrive.

But what about other supermarkets?

Aldi launched a vegan range called Earth Grown in the US earlier this month, including vegan burgers, hotdogs and meat balls.

When I tweeted them to see when it was going to be rolled out in the UK, the response I got was 'there are no current plans to launch this range in UK stores. We do, however, have a wide range of vegan products' and linked me to a page of products, not a dedicated range.

But a list containing crinkle cut crisps, garden peas and peach schnapps doesn't really cut it. Unless I'm having a rock and roll Friday night in.

Via email though, I did receive information on a new range of organic bean pastas, Sriracha mayonnaise and bounce energy balls. Not quite a meal though, is it?

Doing slightly better is Sainsbury's, who aren't ones to shy away from competition, and were the first UK supermarket to launch BBQ pulled jackfruit at the start of the year.

Product developer for fresh produce Georgina Lunn told me: 'Our new range aims to remove the barriers to plant-based eating, providing innovative solutions for meat-free meals that are really easy to prepare for those lacking in time or confidence.'

The jackfruit is sweet and smoky and would likely appeal to a meat eater, but the jackfruit isn't pre-pulled so the flavours aren't very deep.

Sainsbury's have also launched mushroom mince, which is easy to cook and takes whatever flavours you want.

But £1.50 for some finely chopped mushrooms isn't really mince – or good value for money – for me.

I'm a much bigger fan of their 'Deliciously Free From' range, which features cheddar-style and spring onion crispbakes and spiced bean burgers – convenience food that is a bit more substantial.

When I contacted Asda about their new vegan range, I was sent information on an onion bhaji wrap, houmous and falafel sandwich, Mexican bean and rice salad and vegan cheddar.

They assured me they 'have more exciting new products on their way later in the year,' so fingers crossed they have some A-game products in development.

I didn't get a response from M&S amidst cauliflower steak-gate. Who would have thought that cauliflower would be making headlines in 2018?

Cauli aside, their recently launched veggie range has vegan sandwiches, veggie pots and some notable vegan salads such as kale, cranberry and orange, alongside edamame bean burgers and sweetcorn and chickpea burgers, which I will definitely be getting my lips around as soon as possible.

Waitrose have been the latest to announce new vegan products in their Good Health range: two sandwiches and some mushroom and miso bites – the latter I am most excited about.

The range is focussed on health, with their senior nutritionalist stating they want to 'help busy customers find healthier options'.

Tipping towards ever popular vegan junk food, Waitrose also launched some fake meat products by The Vegetarian Butcher in late 2016, including a tikka masala and Thai green curry.

We're only a few weeks into 2018, but I'm excited to see what the supermarkets continue to develop and release this year.

Whether it's a specific range or a few products, demand is clearly rising and vegans can find more suitable products.

Most supermarket sites can be filtered by 'vegan' or My Vegan Supermarket is a great go-to site.

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