Chris Evans

27th January 2021

Plimsoll Analysis

Veganuary and the march of the plant-based food industry

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Have you participated in Veganuary this year? The annual challenge promoting the virtues and benefits of a plant-based lifestyle continues to grow in popularity. Since its launch in 2014, participation has doubled each year with almost half a million expected to have participated in 2021.

The health benefits of a vegan diet are well publicised. A cessation of red meat is scientifically proven to lower cholesterol, improve heart health and reduce instances of certain cancers. Environmentally, the benefits of even a temporary vegan lifestyle are significant. Organisers of Veganuary campaign claim that the CO2 equivalent of 450,000 flights have been prevented from polluting the atmosphere because of people taking part. Meat production remains a major contributor to greenhouse gases around the world.

The prevalence of plant-based products on the dinner plates of UK families continues unabated. Over 600,000 adults in the UK now live a full vegan lifestyle. The shunning of animal-derived food and products has exploded in popularity over the past few years. Supermarkets and restaurants in both the casual and formal setting have all adapted to the rapid increase in popularity of a plant-based lifestyle.

While the science behind the health and environmental benefits of zero meat consumption are loudly trumpeted by its main purveyors and supporters, the financial health benefits for the companies serving this exploding market are simply staggering. While a pure vegan lifestyle may remain relatively rare (less than 2% of the population), non-vegans are increasingly trying the growing, more exciting plant-based product ranges on an occasional basis.

Market analysts Plimsoll have examined a number of industries across the food sector and the results show a growing divergence between red meat and poultry and products that feature more prominently in vegetarian, pescatarian and vegan lifestyles:


Sales Growth

Profit Margins

Vegan Foods
















Clearly, growth rates in vegan and plant-based food options are far outstripping that of the traditional markets of red meat and chicken. These two titans of the dinner table still dwarf the overall size of the vegan market, but the 11.1% growth rate of vegan foods is almost more than four times faster than other markets.

More eye-catching is the level of profit the vegan market generates compared to the rest of the other food industries. With average margins across the market of 3.5%, vegan foods are twice as profitable as the next best industry and more than three times more so than the least profitable. For a market in its relative infancy with higher R&D costs than traditional, farm-based foods, that is some achievement.

What next for the vegan food sector as it matures into a more accepted food choice for the British consumer? Start-ups developing new and exciting vegan products could be bought out by titans of the food market.  The explosive growth and high margins offered by vegan foods is already attracting the attention of larger companies and leading to bigger M&A deals. Multi-national companies in many industries are increasingly following the trend of avoiding the risk and expense of in-house R&D and failed product launches. Instead, they look to acquire smaller, innovative companies in new markets once they have established their products and developed sufficient scale.

The Plimsoll Analysis has found 27 high-growth vegan food companies that larger companies will look to bring into their portfolio. These companies, with the power of extra capital and an enhanced distribution network, could become leaders in the vegan sector as part of a larger group. Watch out for news as many companies could be in somebody’s M&A plans already.

The vegan sector is not immune to the issues affecting all companies in these difficult times. Despite operating in the same high growth, high margin market, 16 companies have been rated as Danger in the latest Plimsoll Analysis. These companies have been given early warning that they must make the most of current favourable market conditions to fix the issues with their financial health. The Plimsoll Analysis shows the elements of their financial performance that are affecting their overall stability. While a Danger rating from Plimsoll does not automatically mean failure, it is a warning that these companies are most exposed to future bumps in the road.

Veganism looks as though it is here to stay. However, as vegan food increasingly becomes mainstream food, how many of the current protagonists will stay around, how many disruptors will spring from the market and become a major name, and who will buy who? The Plimsoll Analysis provides the insights to be able to spot the answers to those questions and more.

Plimsoll produces individual financial studies across the whole of the food sector. In fact, we have more than 1600 industry specific financial studies from Airlines to Yarn Suppliers. Each study measures the financial performance of every key company within its corresponding market. Visit to find out what the Plimsoll Analysis on your industry have found and what the future holds for its key companies.



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