Veganism, as a growing movement, has gone far beyond a passing fad or trend and has now become a lifestyle for many around the world, and with it, the choice of vegan products and vegan restaurants has exploded to cater to a captive market eager for more options. According to the Vegan Society, in the UK alone, the number of vegans in Great Britain grew from 150,000 in 2016 to around 600,000 in 2018.
As more and more people eliminate animal-derived ingredients from their diets, even just for a month during ‘veganuary’, the focus on vegan drinks and cocktail ingredients is increasing too. Of course, many existing drinks brands and cocktails are already vegan, tapping into wellness, ethics and moderation trends. But, there’s an opportunity for brand owners to set themselves apart by highlighting this to consumers.
What’s in a drink?
When it comes to identifying non-vegan drinks brands across all categories, there are some obvious ingredients that are usually clearly identified on labels, such as dairy and honey. There are, however, a number of other ingredients, as well as elements of alcohol production processes, that can cause a product to fail to meet vegan criteria.
Filtering is often the reason for this, as many techniques may use products derived from animals and these processes are seldom communicated on labels; these products can be anything from egg white, gelatin, or isinglass – which is derived from fish – to casein, derived from dairy. Wine and beer manufacturing processes make more use of these filtering products than their spirits counterparts. Another consideration for vegans is refined sugar, which is often refined using bone char, a charcoal made from animal bones.
The result, for vegans, is a drinks market where each product – with the exception of a few specifically-labelled vegan-friendly products – needs to be researched individually. Drinks-specific vegan websites offer lists of drinks brands with responses from companies about their products’ suitability for vegans; as a result, drinks companies that have been ahead of the vegan trend have been rewarded with an opportunity to easily and effectively market themselves to a captive audience eager to be catered to.
Which brands are ahead of the trend?
For the few drinks producers that are concerned with catering to a vegan audience, there are vegan-friendly filtering and fining options, such as bentonite, limestone and plant casein, which many drinks producers are starting to experiment with in a bid to move away from animal-derived ingredients.
One such company is Campari, whose namesake brand once contained carmine (derived from cochineal insects) to give it its distinctive bright red colour. In 2006 it changed this to an artificial colouring in an effort to eliminate animal byproducts from its production process.
In 2017, Baileys launched Almande, a variant made with almond milk, to cater to the growing number of vegans in the UK. Supermarket chain Marks & Spencer joined in later in the same year, revealing a non-dairy cream liqueur, Chocolate Coconut Cream, in time for Christmas.
UK-based brewery and pub chain Brewdog opened its first 100% vegan pub in London in October 2019 in accordance with their mission to “make craft beer as inclusive as possible.” The brewery already serves vegan options at all its locations, and 95 percent of its beer is already vegan according to the company’s website.
How are cocktails changing?
For cocktails, a number of classics are already perfectly suited to vegans as a result of the ingredients used. But there has nevertheless been significant work recently in creating vegan-friendly cocktails around the world, with pioneering techniques and interesting new ingredients.
Often this can mean making ingredients from scratch, to ensure that no animal products are used in their production, such as in the sugar or base wine. To make an authentic Bloody Mary, for example, a bartender could produce a vegan-friendly version of Worcestershire sauce, which contains anchovies in its traditional form.
One of the most common non-vegan components of classic cocktails is egg white, often utilised for its ability to produce foam and add mouthfeel when a drink is shaken. Fortunately, a number of alternative options already exist, and bartenders are always pioneering new ways to incorporate these into drinks.
Perhaps the most high-profile egg-white substitute is aquafaba, the water in which legumes (often chickpeas) are cooked. Bartenders are able to use this as a substitute for egg white in classics like whiskey or gin sours. A simpler and more readily available alternative to egg white is to incorporate pineapple juice or pineapple syrup into a cocktail, as the fruit also contains foaming properties when shaken.
Gauging by the consumer response and recent uptick in veganism, alongside the growing demand for vegan options across numerous industries, drinks players may want to consider taking advantage of the opportunity to set themselves apart by tapping into this growing market.
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