More people than ever before took part in Veganuary in 2020, official figures have shown. Over 400,000 people in Britain ate vegan this January, 150,000 more than in 2019.
There is no doubt, the demand for plant-based foods is increasing, driven by multiple forces. Ethical issues surrounding meat production are a factor, whilst consumers are also looking to reduce or eliminate their meat consumption because of health, environmental and financial concerns.
When asked about the benefits of eating less meat, nearly a third of those cutting back (32 percent) said that it ‘helps to improve health’, followed closely by ‘it’s a good way to save money’ (31 percent). A quarter of respondents said ‘improving the environment’ was a reason to eat less meat. Plant-based milks also are ever more prevalent as consumers make the switch for similar reasons.
The UK is becoming a world-leading innovator of plant-based products. As consumers’ appetite for plant-based products grows, so does the number of vegan processed food options available in this changing market. In 2019, ‘almost a quarter (23 percent) of all new UK food product launches were labelled as vegan’.
Protecting your innovation – trade secrets and patents
Where there is innovation in a commercially dynamic and growing market, the next step should be to consider protecting that innovation from use by competitors.
As discussed in our previous article, trade secrets and patents are often used to protect recipes for food and beverages. Although trade secrets can provide some protection for recipes, where available, patents offer much stronger protection. Many well-known vegan products are patent-protected, including Quorn, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.
Plant-based innovations are not limited to recipes. The environmental pressures of food production are leading to improvements in how we grow and produce our foods, as well as food packaging, transportation and storage. In today’s climate, consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of food production, and innovations reducing that impact can influence consumer decisions. For example, research has shown that environmentally-friendly packaging is important to consumers and would drive the decision of ‘three quarters (75 percent) of meat-free users/buyers to buy one meat-free food product over another’.
In the current market, any innovation related to plant-based products or an improved, environmentally-friendly process, can have high commercial importance for your business. Patenting those products or processes should be considered, to protect those valuable innovations from use by third parties, and maintain commercial advantage.
Further information about protecting innovation and intellectual property in the food and beverage industry is available from Appleyard Lees food and beverage specialists.
 “Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (2020) – “Environmental impacts of food production”. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food