Opinion

How Greggs Cooked Up A Vegan Revolution

Your favorite fast food outlet is probably offering some pretty great vegan options now.

It’s 2020 and the pressure on brands to be more ‘woke’ is mounting, but that isn’t the only reason that you’ve seen a lot more vegan and vegetarian products being added to the menus of most popular fast food outlets over the past few years or so.

This is how Greggs paved the way for the so-called vegan revolution.

The Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll – And Everything That Happened After

It’s been over a year since the vegan sausage roll made its way to Greggs stores nationwide. The media pickup was legendary, and at a time, it seemed as though everybody was talking about Greggs.

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That’s a story in itself (incidentally, one I covered last January) but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. What I wanted to touch on, was everything that happened thereafter. How I genuinely believe that Greggs singlehandedly kickstarted a colossal movement in the food and drink industry, wherein if your product range isn’t vegan-friendly now, then sorry but, you’re behind the times.

The Greggs vegan sausage roll was something of the first of its kind because as far as I’m aware, up until then, no iconic fast food product had a meat-free alternative. When you think of McDonald’s, you think of the Big Mac, KFC, the chicken, Greggs, the sausage roll. Out of those 3 I’ve mentioned, only one (to date back in January 2019) had a vegan counterpart.  It’s all good and well having vegan options on your menu, but when what your offering is sub-standard and not what your brand is well-known for, then you mightn’t bother at all.

That was the case for a long time though, until Greggs came along and reinvented the wheel.

After the launch of the Greggs vegan sausage roll came on the 16th of January, I feel it gave other brands the shot in the arm that they needed.

The Brands That Followed Suit…

KFC launched their ‘vegan chicken burger’ in January 2020, almost a year to the date of the vegan sausage roll and it was reported only earlier this month that they sold over 1 million items within the first month of it being for sale.

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It was also this January that Subway revealed its new ‘meatless marinara’. Despite being coupled with that advert that I just find reaallly annoying (you’ll know the one) the launch has been a pronounced success for the brand. Brands can learn a lot from the victories of Subway, in that what vegans and vegetarians want, more often than not, is a meat alternative to popular foods, not a lookalike product stuffed with vegetables instead. Which brings me on to my next ‘vegan’ launch…

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McDonald’s recently tried (and in my opinion, kinda failed) with the launch of their so-called veggie dippers in January 2020. Which were kind of just a rework of the vegetarian burger that had been on their books for some time. The cash cow for McDonald’s would really be to reengineer a meat-free version of the Big Mac. But as far as I’m aware, they’ve no plans for that as of yet.

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Coincidentally, Burger King also launched their new ‘rebel whopper’ this January. A meat-free alternative of the much-loved traditional ‘whopper’, an indispensable product for the brand. Despite hitting stores a little later than a year after Greggs’ vegan sausage roll, the ‘rebel whopper’ as far as I can tell from sources, has been an exceptional triumph for Burger King – thus reinforcing just how impactful the consideration of vegan and vegetarian products can be for not only the reputation, but the profits of your brand.

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It is, of course, no coincidence that all of these brands (bar Greggs, the trendsetters of the industry) launched their vegan products in January 2020. It’s a clever move to wait until Veguanary. But that being said, with 4 similar campaigns set in motion at the same time, would these brands have benefitted from an early push to cut above the competition?

Why Now?

Either way, in my opinion, it’s indisputable that this vegan revolution was spurred by Greggs. They’ve been pacesetters for a year now and until this January just gone, they were really the only brand to offer a meat-free alternative of their most popular product.

Speaking from a PR & Marketing perspective, seeing such a big player in your industry making waves should definitely lead to ripples within your own business too. “If Greggs can do it, then why can’t you?” is a question on the lips of many customers, and thus there’s not only a consumer demand for contemporary vegan products, but an ethical one too. Veganism is much bigger now than it was say, 5 years ago. Thanks in no small part to social media’s influence and the growing pressure to create a more ethical environment. If big brands can’t facilitate this change when a huge organisation such as Greggs can, then there’s some serious risks to their corporate reputations.

There’s a lot that similar businesses can learn from the popular bakery chain, if they’ve not followed suit already that is.

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