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Vegan TikTok: The next big food trend?
TikTok’s popularity surged during the pandemic. In the UK, TikTok exploded from 5.4 million users in January to almost 13 million in April. At the end of 2020, the network is projected to hit a billion active users, 70% of whom are Gen Z.
Over lockdown, several home cooks turned to TikTok for recipes and tutorials. We saw several viral food trends (who can forget that viral whipped dalgona coffee?) and niche ‘food influencers’ developing a powerful presence on the platform. The popularity of cooking tutorials makes sense, given Gen Z don’t just use social media to connect with friends – they also tune in for bite-sized educational, how-to style content.
Veganism on the rise
Interestingly, lots of food trends on TikTok are kicked off by vegan influencers, or highlight vegan recipes. This is because climate issues and sustainability are front of mind for this younger demographic: over a third want to be meat-free by 2021.
This year, every single UK supermarket has it’s own vegan range, and the number of vegans in the UK has quadrupled between 2014 and 2019. Celebrities and influencers are proudly vegan, including Gen Z icon Lizzo, who recently celebrated 6 months of veganism on her TikTok. To be frank, veganism is on the rise.
Gen Z and Veganism
Gen Z is championing veganism, even if they’re not taking it up full time. 65% of Gen Z find plant based foods appealing, and 75% say they’re cutting down meat consumption. This preference has a real impact on the food market: plant-based substitute oat milk sales have risen nearly two thousand percent in the last two years. Brands like Oatly have experienced astronomic success because they provide a sustainable alternative to animal products, and are better for the planet. It’s not just vegan food that’s on the rise: vegan fashion and beauty is increasingly popular, with the vegan leather industry expected to hit $85 billion by 2025.
In recognition of Gen Z’s $143 billion purchasing power, regular brands are beginning to offer plant-based alternatives. McDonald’s has introduced a McVegan burger targeted at flexitarians, Burger King introduced the ‘Rebel Whopper’ made of soy protein, and Pret a Manger has entirely ‘Veggie Pret’ branches. KFC hopped on this trend with the ‘Zero Chicken’ burger in January, and even UK high street chain Greggs joined in with a vegan sausage roll.
So, Gen Z has kickstarted a rise in veganism. It’s time for vegan food brands to connect to their largest demographic, and what better place to meet Gen Z audience than TikTok? Gen Z use TikTok for entertainment and bite-sized ‘micro-learning’, something the 60 second video format is well-suited to.
TikTok and Veganism
Vegan food brands who aren’t on TikTok could miss out on explosive growth in the Gen Z market. We’ve seen prominent vegan influencers emerge, and lots of viral vegan food trends in 2020.
Vegan TikTok Influencers
One of the most popular food influencers on TikTok is vegan chef Tabitha Brown, self-described as ‘world’s favorite mom’. With 4.5 million followers and nearly 72 million likes on her videos, she’s got her TikTok audience captivated. Her videos feature quick tutorials on home recipes, often featuring meat substitutes or vegan alternatives to popular comfort foods. Gen Z love her tutorials because they’re easy to recreate and use ingredients you can find in any supermarket. Her content is also appealing because it taps into the ‘soothing, stress-busting’ niche – something that resonates with this young demographic, especially during lockdown.
Lizzo, award-winning singer, is another popular vegan influencer. She shares what she eats, as well as recipes and has recently celebrated six months of being vegan on the app. Her focus on body-positivity appeals to Gen Z since they truly care about inclusivity. With 11 million followers and 270 million likes, Lizzo has drawn a lot of her eyeballs to her page during quarantine.
While there are several heavy hitters, TikTok is also home to creators with have a highly engaged, smaller following. Influencer @wholesomehedonista (244k followers, 7 million likes) posts aesthetically pleasing, easy to follow vegan recipes. These often use trending sounds or vegan recreations of celebrity’s meals (like Gigi Hadid’s vodka pasta).
Another popular creator, @vegansoph shares a diverse range of content on vegan food, such as what she eats in a day. She uses themes for Halloween, Christmas or even being hungover. Several videos come in multiple parts, releasing a part a day. This capitalises on TikTok’s episodic nature, where Gen Z tune in daily (for an average of 52 minutes a day) to watch TikToks, just like their parents watched TV. Getting her audience to come back across several days encourages deeper engagement. This is why she has over half a million likes on her videos despite having only 8k followers.
These top vegan creators’ strategies should highlight the importance of watching trending sounds and using ‘hacks’ like two-parter videos. Vegan food brands can partner with influencers specific to their niche, whether that’s recipes, humor or stress-busting content. Shy away from controversial content like @theveganteacher’s videos, which have drawn criticism for using tons of profanity and a negative attitude, guilting people into veganism. Feel-good or funny content does best on TikTok: Gen Z is there to be entertained, learn and destress.
Vegan TikTok Trends
Vegan food brands can get involved with viral trends, or even work to create their own. To grow organically, using the right hashtags is a good place to start. As a bonus, you can comb these hashtags for content inspiration and see what kind of views garner better engagement.
The #vegan hashtag has over 5.7 billion views, featuring anything from ‘storytelling’ to recipes and memes. This is a pretty diverse range, but funny or satisfying content tends to perform well. #veganrecipes has a whopping 350 million views – a great opportunity for meat and diary substitute brands to showcase how their products can be used. The best videos are aesthetically pleasing, well-captioned, simple to follow and focus on a vegan version of a meat or dairy based recipe.
Keep an eye on trends too, your brand can participate or create your own. TikTok vegan food trends in 2020 went viral not just on TikTok, but across the internet. #whippedcoffee (2.2 billion views) is a great example: this easy to recreate, frothy beverage generated copycat takes across the internet. This kind of trend would be brilliant for alternative milk brands, since you can create the recipe with oat, pea, and nut milks. Some other trends include egg-free cloud bread, vegan pancake cereal, doughnuts as well as thick, creamy smoothies. A common theme here is offering plant-based alternatives, perhaps of an existing food trend.
How Vegan Brands Can Leverage TikTok
To summarise, TikTok is where the plant-based zeitgeist is taking place. Vegan food brands can partner with popular, or niche vegan creators who can showcase their products in their own unique style. Videos that work well include body positive, feel-good content, or easy to recreate recipes.
Brands shouldn’t limit themselves though. Users are also interested in seeing non-vegan users attempt the ‘vegan lifestyle’ and attempt a vegan diet. This grants a great opportunity for vegan brands to collaborate and leverage non-vegan creators to showcase authentic, ‘trying vegan products’ content.
Alternatively, brands can spot trends, or aim to create their own. Creating a vegan alternative for an existing trending recipe is a great place to start. Consistently participating in trending hashtags and providing plant-based versions of well-loved foods appeals to Gen Z. And remember, negative or inflammatory content doesn’t do well on this platform, so keep it light and interesting.