In the run up to Easter, new research compiled by food label consultants Ashbury has revealed that online demand for vegan chocolate has plummeted almost a quarter (23%) year-on-year as it asks the question: has plant-based chocolate had its time in the sun?
Ashbury analysed Google data for over 1000 vegan-related items in 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 to determine the year-on-year rise or fall in consumer demand for vegan alternatives this Easter.
Searches for ‘vegan’ related terms fell by 15% in the UK, whereas searches for any terms relating to ‘vegan chocolate’ fell 23% from last year. Searches for ‘vegan easter eggs’ saw the biggest decline at 30%.
“While it’s clear that more consumers are keen to reduce their consumption of animal-based products, there are also many people with allergies or food intolerances that typically look to vegan options such as chocolate as a way of enjoying their favourite foods without the risk of exposure,” explained Joanna Becker-Hawkins, Senior Regulatory Advisor at Ashbury. “However, it’s important to understand that just because a product is labelled ‘vegan’ doesn’t mean that it is definitively clear of allergenic ingredients, such as milk. Free-from products go through more stringent allergen risk management and testing.”
In terms of specific searches, ‘vegan white chocolate’ saw a sharp decline of 28% in searches while ‘vegan dark chocolate’ also decline with a 23% drop.
Specialist Paediatric Allergy Dietitian Lydia Collins-Hussey said of the research: “For the allergic consumer it is important to have vegan and free-from options available and I’m surprised that data is showing a reduction in demand but this could be down to many things such as the cost of living crisis and the expensive nature of some vegan products.
“Those with food allergies are already seeing a hike in food bills above the average household. The FSA recently published findings that food allergy households spend 12-27% more on their weekly shop compared to those that don’t have a food allergy.”
All fingers pointed to the cost-of-living crisis playing a big part in the reduction of consumers seeking out vegan items, supported by Meg Scott, a consumer with a vegan diet.
“Vegan chocolate tends to be significantly more expensive, which is not sustainable for me to keep buying exclusively on a regular basis,” Megan said. “Although there are certainly more choices today, these options aren’t as widely accessible as non-vegan chocolate, so it’s more difficult to get hold of compared to other plant-based alternatives.”
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