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Join the Veganuary Movement!

Whether you’re a pizzeria owner or consumer, vegan or carnivore, do not miss this incredibly informative Q&A with Wendy Matthews, U.S. director of Veganuary.

Posted on December 31, 2020

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January inevitably finds a lot of us making healthy-minded new year’s resolutions. They’re sometimes successful, sometimes not, but it always feels like a great time of year to embark on fresh starts—especially when it comes to cleaning up our diets. However, we don’t always need to promise a yearlong overhaul; sometimes, starting small, with just a one-month commitment, can make a massive difference—and get us well on our way to making those healthier habits stick over the long term.

That’s the beauty of the Veganuary movement, which takes place every January. By signing up to eat vegan for just 31 days, you’ll join hundreds of thousands of participants who are aligning to make a difference in their own lives and in the health of the planet. “Veganuary is a global nonprofit encouraging people to try vegan in January and beyond with a 31-day plant-based pledge,” explains Wendy Matthews, U.S. director of the U.K.-based Veganuary movement. “This year, we are anticipating 500,000 Veganuary participants. With so many more new vegans and flexitarians being created, we also want pizzerias and restaurants to recognize January as the perfect time of year for them to test-run new vegan menu items!”

And, Matthews adds, it’s not too late to take advantage of Veganuary 2021. Restaurant owners should check out its business support toolkit, while anyone can still sign up to take the challenge. “Participants receive a free downloadable celebrity e-cookbook and budget-friendly meal plan, as well as a daily email throughout January with our best tips and recipes,” Matthews says. “Plus, you’ll gain access to our private Facebook group to ask questions, share experiences, and get advice and recommendations.”

In this informative and inspiring Q&A, Matthews shares more about the Veganuary movement—and an amazing abundance of knowledge about the vegan movement in general—to get us all started on a healthier path for 2021 and beyond.

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Let’s start with the basics! Do you have advice for those who have zero experience with eating vegan but who want to try Veganuary?

First and foremost, don’t think of it as an all-or-nothing commitment. Changing your entire diet can be difficult, and it is likely that you will have slipups or make mistakes—but it’s important not to use this as a reason to give up and go back to your old eating habits. Do your best every day, cut yourself some slack when you’re not perfect, and trust that it will get easier.

Second, start by veganizing familiar dishes rather than exploring whole new types of cuisine. Meatless crumbles or lentils make a great protein substitute in dishes like tacos, chili or pasta. Nondairy milk makes delicious mashed potatoes, sauces and creamy soups. Vegan sausages, burgers or strips make an easy swap for meat-based alternatives. These are simple changes and, for the most part, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference.

How has the Veganuary movement grown over the years?

Veganuary was launched in the U.K. in 2014, and during that first year there were 3,300 signups. Fast-forward to 2021, and we are now a global movement, with more than 1 million participants since our launch, and 500,000 participants expected this year alone. We expect 2021 to be our biggest year yet.

We now have staffed campaigns in the U.K., the U.S., Germany and Latin America, plus partner-run campaigns across the globe. We also work with businesses to help them launch and promote vegan products in January. Last year, more than 600 large- and medium-size brands, restaurants and supermarkets promoted Veganuary, along with thousands of smaller independents.

A sense of community is more important now than ever. By joining a fast-growing movement like Veganuary, participants can enjoy the support and connection that comes from taking on a new challenge, together.

We are also very fortunate to have the support of caring celebrities, including Hollywood A-listers like Joaquin Phoenix, Mayim Bialik, Tabitha Brown and Alec Baldwin. Just last week, Veganuary published a letter signed by Dr. Jane Goodall, Ricky Gervais, Paul McCartney and more than 100 additional international superstars, politicians, NGOs and businesses, calling on everyone to help fight climate change and prevent future pandemics by changing their diet. 

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What do you think are some common misconceptions about vegan consumers or the vegan lifestyle/diet?

One of the most common perceived barriers to trying vegan is that it’s too expensive. Findings from a new Kantar study commissioned by Veganuary in the U.K. show that, on average, plant-based meals eaten at home cost 40% less than meat-/fish-based meals and take one-third less time to prepare. While it’s true that some plant-based meat and dairy substitutes carry a premium price, this study shows they are only a small part of a typical vegan diet and, overall, eating plants costs less—another great reason to try vegan this January!

How can vegan pizzerias/restaurants do a better job of communicating their vegan offerings to customers and/or reach the vegan community? Is there anything else you feel is important for restaurants to know when catering to/accommodating vegans?

Consumers discovering great-tasting food is crucial in their decision to stay vegan—plant-based alternatives need to be just as tasty and creative as their animal-product counterparts! Sixty percent of participants who said they intend to stay vegan told us the Veganuary challenge was easier than they had anticipated, and 48% cited the discovery of great-tasting food as a major influence in their decision to stay vegan.

Here’s what we’d most love to see a focus on from restaurants and pizzerias in the future to help capture the attention of the growing vegan and veg-curious audience:

  • Taste: We need vegan options to taste the same, if not better, than the animal alternative so that even the meatiest of meat eaters will enjoy them.
  • Availability: We want the products to be accessible and available—not hiding in the corner. All demographics need to be able to find the products—especially meat-eaters.
  • Price: We need to entice new shoppers with promotions and lower the prices overall. We don’t want a vegan tax for our choices; prices need to be on par with the animal-based alternatives.

Why do you see vegan eating as not just a trend but a full evolution of our eating habits going forward (even among meat eaters who are incorporating more plant-based foods)?

The public is increasingly aware of the risks of animal agriculture, from environmental devastation to future pandemics. With that awareness comes the desire to build a better future and create a world that is kinder and safer for all.

How has COVID impacted the vegan movement?

Our signup numbers are higher than they were at the same time last year, and a survey of our former participants revealed that one-third of respondents are eating more plant-based foods as a result of the pandemic. This is due to a combination of wanting to be healthier, having more time to cook, and the link between animal farming and pandemics.

What strides have you witnessed in vegan food options over the years, and what do you want to see or predict for the future of this space?

We believe that the future is plant-based, and companies all over the world are starting to realize this and are investing more and more in vegan innovations. For example, Unilever set a sales target of $1.2 billion from plant-based meat and dairy alternatives in the next five to seven years, and the plant-based meat market is estimated to be worth $8.3 billion by 2025. Vegan products and menu items are no longer a niche market—they are a necessary innovation. Several companies have told us that Veganuary in the U.K. is now a bigger feature in the retail calendar than Christmas! I predict we’ll see the same in the U.S. in the next few years.

For more info, check out these recent press releases from the Veganuary movement:

Are you accepting the Veganuary challenge for 2021? Reach out to me at tracy@pizzavegan.com and share your story!

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