The vegan wine market is booming – thanks to carnivores, flexitarians and pescatarians writes Rowena Curlewis
Vegan wines have enjoyed huge success in recent years, as the plant-based movement gains momentum and modern production processes continue to advance.
All sorts of people are getting in on the act. Hollywood star Cameron Diaz recently launched her own brand of ‘clean’ vegan wines, Avaline. Kylie Minogue gave us an eponymous vegan rosé a few months ago. And several retailers have pledged to ensure their wines follow suit – M&S has said its own lines will be 100 percent vegan by 2022, and Spar is aiming for the end of 2021.
This primarily involves winemakers switching from animal-based fining products to filter their wines and improve clarity, such as egg whites, casein and gelatine, to vegan-friendly alternatives like pea protein, potato and carbon.
Vegan-friendly and plant-based products are increasingly positioned as mainstream across all kinds of sectors – health and wellbeing, beauty, fashion and food – as the health benefits become more widely appreciated and concerns about farming practices and the environment grow. These are issues that concern a wide cross-section of society, and so it makes sense that the target audiences are not confined to the traditional vegan demographic.
Meat-substitute line Impossible Foods is a perfect example. It makes no attempt to disguise the fact that it has carnivores firmly in its crosshairs (according to Nielsen, sales of plant-based meat alternatives were up 83.5 percent year-on-year in 2019, escalating to +134 percent during the pandemic period from March 1st through to August 29th).
Now the wine industry is catching on to the fact that for plant-based wines to enjoy even more success you need the carnivores, the pescatarians, the flexitarians and the vegetarians to get involved too. Anyone, in fact, who might prefer drinking wine that hasn’t been produced using animal products.
Yet when we look at the general approach to brand strategy and packaging identity across the sector, so much is stuck in a 70s-style loop, when veganism was on the fringes and dismissed as eccentric and faddish. So why the brown, lentily thinking? Vegan-friendly plant-based wines should be celebrated for being contemporary, sexy, forward-thinking and part of the zeitgeist.
Family-run Australian winery Fourth Wave certainly understood this with the recent launch of its new plant-based line, Hello!. The brand strategy and packaging identity served as a friendly ‘call-out’ from the shelf, with labelling clearly stating that this is a wine for all, declaring that it’s ‘vegan friendly, vegetarian friendly, pescatarian friendly, carnivore friendly’, etc. In fact, it’s ‘friendly full stop’. The colourways moved away from the brown, earthy tones traditionally associated with this sector, instead opting for fresh modern pastels. The tone of voice is light-hearted and fun – far from holier than thou.
Its success lies in the fact that it doesn’t alienate the vegan and vegetarian markets, but it opens its arms to all-comers as well. It also appreciates that not everyone understands wine production processes, and so these things need to be made crystal clear on pack.
Winemakers need to remove obstacles, dissipate cliques and spread brand awareness as far and wide as possible – but without losing relevance to those people who see themselves as part of a specific demographic. Sticking to accepted design tropes will only service to narrow the remit, which makes little sense.
Veganism has moved on from a niche lifestyle choice to a mainstream movement. It’s time for wine brands to do the same.
Rowena CURLEWIS is the CEO of international drinks branding specialists Denomination. Her insight, passion and knowledge of the drinks sector makes her a recognised industry face. She has lectured and chaired panels in design, innovation and drinks packaging around the world.