The UK is the largest consumer and purchaser of plant-based milk, meat, cheese and ready
meals in Europe. 25% of evening meals in the UK are now vegan or vegetarian, and one in
three people in the UK have stopped or reduced their meat consumption. (Source: T
In the year to Nov 2020, Deliveroo reported a 115% increase in demand for plant-based
meals. In my home town of Cambridge, Stem & Glory was the only vegan restaurant in 2017.
Now there are five. Only those in denial about the unsustainability of animal consumption
can ignore or pass off veganism as a ‘fad’.
2020 was the year of plant-based ‘meat’, attracting both consumers and investors. The IPO
of US brand ‘Beyond Meat’ was the best performing first-day IPO in nearly two decades. The
UK brand THIS™ Seedrs campaign was the fastest ever campaign to hit £1.5m+ and closed
on £4.5m in a matter of days.
Investors are keen to invest in the plant-based space, and we’re seeing an ever-growing
number of vegan and ethical investment firms. The plant-based movement has not only
grown in popularity, but it’s now well capitalised and poised for even greater growth and
So, where is it we see new products starting to gain ground, and where do we see vegan
products in the UK heading in 2021?
1) Vegan Seafood
Vegan seafood has become a fast-moving trend all over the world, and seems to be
following a similar trajectory to vegan meat, in that seafood junk – deep fried scampi, deep
fried vegan shrimp, fish burgers, and fish goujons – is popular in both supermarkets and
early adopter food outlets. We are however starting to see better quality attempts at vegan
seafood, with greater attention to health and natural ingredients.
Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni from Vegan Capital is one of the best known and most active
investors in the plant-based space. Vegan Capital is an early investor in seafood company
‘Good Catch’ and Sebastiano has observed rapid growth in this area. Sebastiano also notes
that some companies that are still involved in animal seafood are now venturing into plant-
based. Nestlé, for example, recently released the first plant-based tuna in Switzerland.
These global companies seem to know that the writing is on the wall. Sebastiano believes a
greater focus on health, protein, and healthy fats is a new trend within plant-based, and this
echoes our own feelings at Stem & Glory.
2) Healthier Fake ‘Meat’
I predict that 2021 will be the year we start to see a trend in the direction of healthier and
less processed animal alternatives.
For example, Ed Al Subaei, executive Chef at Stem & Glory, creates fake ‘meat’ out of
vegetables, instead of highly processed ingredients. For example, he makes a show stopping
‘ham’ from smoked celeriac sheets, and ‘chorizo’ from beetroot. Using the classic flavours to
make the experience, whilst remaining 100% unprocessed.
It isn’t always the meat that is the reason you like a certain dish; it’s a combination of layers
of flavour, and if you can create those same layers of flavour from non-animal products, you
really can create the same taste sensation.
We are not the only ones – Tabitha Brown’s ‘carrot bacon’ video made her a social media
sensation this year, garnering over 12m views.
3) Vegan Ready Meals
One gap in the market appears to be quality ready meals. Tesco has been ahead of the game
with their Wicked range. But for me personally, having sampled the offerings from all the
major supermarkets, I am not convinced by taste or quality.
All too often products are veganised simply by removing the animal products, without much
attention to the taste or texture. At Stem & Glory we are in development mode for our new
ready meal range which does have a focus on taste and texture, as well as innovative dishes.
The aim is to bring restaurant quality to supermarket shelves and raise the bar on vegan
We believe we will also see a trend towards ready meals in general and grab-and-go foods
in a wide variety of settings. A view echoed by Castiglioni, who predicts that ‘vegan ready
meals will be the new normal, with a much greater variety of unequivocally plant-based
options, easy to buy and ready to eat, taking over shelves everywhere, from gas stations to
4) Vegan Cheese
Vegan cheese is the holy grail at the moment. The race is on to be the first company that
creates a plant-based cheese that has the same taste and texture as dairy cheese.
Personally, I feel there is a long way to go, BUT 2021 could see this start to change. A few
brands are now on the verge of creating an authentic product with an engineered cow’s
Reuben Waller from Plant Candi, a well-known vegan chef, believes ‘the slow demise of the
traditional dairy business will provide a marked contrast with the rise of products such as
laboratory engineered cow’s milk, which will signal a seismic shift for the vegan cheese
market’. This echoes our view too.
Imagine if you could get the full variety of cheese that we have all been brought up on
tasting exactly the same as the animal counterpart, but made 100% from plants. What a
huge change would come. ‘Not being able to give up cheese’ is given as the number one
reason for flexitarians not becoming vegan, so this would be a game changer. No wonder
investors diving into this space. An engineered dairy product would also take plant-based
cheese back in a natural and unprocessed direction.
5) Vegan Fashion
I am a lifelong customer of G-Star. Their range ‘Raw for the Oceans’ was making fashion
from plastic pulled from the oceans long before Blue Planet, they are committed to 100%
sustainable cotton, and use a wide variety of recycled materials in their products. G-Star is
an excellent example of how a brand can use their sustainability agenda to grow their
Another great example of an established brand being ahead of the curve is Dr Martens
which boasted that profits were up 70% year-on-year to March 2019 largely due to the
success of their new ‘vegan’ range. Vegan Dr Martens however, whilst being an excellent
hard-wearing product, are made from synthetic and non-biodegradable material. So, whilst
they tick the vegan box, their products are not yet sustainable.
But innovation in sustainable vegan leather is happening. Michiel van Deursen from Capital
V is one investor interested in the plant-based fashion space. ‘Leather is not sustainable at
all, and since the alternative is often plastic, this has brought about a shift now towards
plant based and biodegradable vegan ‘leather’. Michiel predicts massive growth in plant-
based fashion and materials in the next few years, where demand is currently outgrowing
production capacity. From an investor perspective, Michiel believes now is the time to get in
and invest; ‘lots of investors still only look at alternative protein. I expect that to change in
the coming year, when more funds and VCs enter the space. The market is ready to be
disrupted. I think we are at that point in time where the major players of the future are now
These are my top five trends to watch for 2021, but one overarching trend which will
underpin all others; sustainability. To date, plant-based has been labelled, by sole virtue of it
being ‘made from plants’, as ‘sustainable’. Is something sustainable just because it is plant-
based? We believe that 2021 will be the year that this comes fully under scrutiny. We all
need to scrutinise our daily lives, and as businesses we have a responsibility to take
whatever steps we need to reduce our carbon footprint – packaging, supply chain,
ingredients. If we do this audit customers will feel safe knowing they are making ethical and
more sustainable buying choices. And as we all know, this in turn will be good for business.
In 2021 sustainability will be the greatest trend of all, with consumers utilising their
purchasing power in support of those with truly circular and authentic sustainable
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Louise Palmer-Masterton is founder of multiple award-winning restaurants Stem & Glory;
hip and trendy but accessible plant-based restaurants, serving delicious gourmet vegan food
from locally sourced ingredients, 100% made on site. Stem & Glory also offers click-and-
collect and local delivery in London and Cambridge. www.stemandglory.uk
By Louise Palmer Masterton, Stem & Glory
Linked in: /louisepalmer-masterton