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The Debate: Highlighting vegan wines

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Is it better for the bottom line to underline a wine's vegan credentials? Today we explore both sides of the debate. In an era where people are more conscious than ever about what they consume, does it make good business sense to do so, or are there more important things to worry about? Let’s find out if highlighting vegan and veggie wines on your wine list is now essential for the on-trade.

The argument for highlighting vegan wines

Not so long ago, veganism was something that appealed to a tiny portion of the population. Once regarded as a niche lifestyle choice solely focused on dietary choice, veganism is now having an impact way beyond the food industry. In recent years, the shift in people's ideologies and the growth of the vegan market has been momentous. Just as cosmetics, fashion, toiletries - just to name a few - have had to rethink their methods, wine producers have been under pressure to respond to the question of ‘what’s not vegan about grape juice?’

Just as most people wouldn’t expect to find animal-derived products in the wine making process, many wine makers don’t consider the need to state fining agents when selling their products. However, the rising demand for ethical products coupled to the necessity to be transparent with allergens is bringing wines under scrutiny. Although this presents a challenge, it is also seen by many as a necessary change towards ethical and sustainable practices; providing consumers the information they demand whilst offering an opportunity to revolutionise modern wine-making.

From a consumer’s point perspective, seeking out official certifications or logos are the best way to identify vegan-friendly products and purchase with confidence. If you serve food, you highlight much of what's inside each dish. You now not only find veggie and vegan indicators on food menus but those for gluten, dairy and other allergens. Staff are now required to know about ingredients and allergens, so why wouldn't they know about vegan or veggie wines?

Wine, like most alcohol, doesn't require a detailed list of ingredients, so it's not always easy to tell vegan wines apart. Some winemakers are labelling their wine vegan-friendly to emphasis the absence of animal-based fining agents. Unfortunately, not all vegan wines are labelled. This practice, given the current move towards full allergen disclosure, means that the trade needs to get to grips with what's inside the bottle.

Our most challenging part of selling wines is ensuring we offer a vegan option to go alongside our heavy vegan food menu.

By Hayley Elizabeth Evans, Mr Postles Apothecary

We clearly mark our Vegan and Veggie wines using simple symbols in our lists. Inside our wine list, you'll find more wines than ever marked with these symbols. For us, it’s about making these wines easy to spot when building a range and in turn, enable customers to make an informed choice on what’s in the bottle.

There is demand for wines suitable for ‘all’. It’s about being inclusive and encouraging this growing segment of consumers into pubs, bars and restaurants. Beyond the apparent market for these wines, licensees would be surprised at the range of people purchasing vegan and veggie wines. From the increasing number of 'flexitarians' to those who just want to know what they consume; vegan products are seen as more desirable. There is a flourishing market for these wines, and we'd all be wise to take notice.

Video: Is wine suitable for vegan and vegetarian diets?

The argument against highlighting vegan wines

There is a lack of understanding when it comes to why a product made of fermented grapes would not be suitable for Veggies or Vegans. This prompts a moral question of whether it is the place of the on-trade to educate people on this. Surely, those following vegan or veggie diets have the responsibility to make themselves aware of what could be inside a bottle of wine?

Going a step further and actively highlighting vegan wines could put meat-eating customers off. While plant-based diets rise, the opposition to veganism in some sectors has hardened. A study has found that more than 1 in 4 meat-eaters are deterred from trying vegan products due to the stances taken by select vegetarians and vegans. Another study found a third of Brits wouldn't date a vegan, so how can we expect them to flirt with a bottle of vegan wine?

With such little understanding of vegan and veggie wine-making, it is not clear to consumers the difference this production method makes to the flavour or quality of the wine. Given that there is still less choice of vegan wines at entry-level price points, why would outlets bother to limit the pool from which they build a range?

In spite of the above, we have to ask if highlighting vegan and veggie wines is even relevant. If you're a steak house or a seafood restaurant with no vegan options, then highlighting your vegan wines might not be essential! If you only have one or two vegan choices, isn't it simpler to just make your staff aware?

Our thoughts

With almost half of UK vegans making the change in 2018, we firmly believe that the market for Vegan wines is growing exponentially. This fact is at odds with the data that just 1 in 10 premium venues currently highlight vegan-friendly wines on their list. With consumers demanding the necessary change towards ethical and sustainable practices in everything from cosmetics to fashion, the on-trade should get ahead of the curve. Making a move to highlight vegan wines is not only about informing customers. This change is about ensuring you have an inclusive range that attracts the broadest range of potential customers. In short, we think highlighting vegan-friendly wines is good business.

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We are continually adding more vegan and veggie wines to our portfolio. You can be sure to find the right product whether you want to add just a few vegan options or create a full list. You can download our brochure here or browse our full vegan range on our website.

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