Despite everything else that was going on in 2020, the thing that really kept us going was the fact that our favourite brands kept bringing out amazing new products and treating us to vegan launches almost every month.
Veganism didn’t get put on hold, instead companies took the opportunity to keep pushing the barriers even further and tempting more people to give up their old favourites for new vegan versions.
We wanted to celebrate the best of the newcomers, as well as favourites that have been with us for a little longer, in our 2021 Vegan Food & Living Reader Awards.
It wasn’t possible to have a tasting panel, so we gave the responsibility for choosing the winners to you – after all, your opinions matter most. We put together the short-list, then invited you to vote in your thousands. And here we are delighted to share with you the results.
Best vegan milk alternative brand
The plant milk aisle in a supermarket is nothing short of impressive these days, but there are so many brands to choose from, which one do you pick?
Even you guys had trouble deciding between them – it was such a close-run thing that we decided to award a Highly Commended prize in this category.
Winner – Oatly
Oatly certainly upped their marketing efforts in 2020 and are continuing that strategy into 2021, but it’s not just their bold statements and quirky personality that wins the vegan consumer over, their oat milks actually taste really, really good!
Oat milk isn’t just one of the most sustainable plant alternatives out there, but Oatly worked really hard on their Barista blend to make sure that it tasted good in coffee and tea and didn’t curdle.
Now they also have chilled Whole, Semi and Skinny to choose from, as well as Chocolate. The only trouble you may have is fighting off your fellow vegans to get hold of a carton!
Highly commended: Alpro
Alpro has been leading the way in milk alternatives for years and they keep adding to their ranges to make them more and more popular.
From almond to oat and soya to coconut, there’s a drink for every occasion. If you haven’t tried it yet, My Cuppa is the perfect new product developed especially for tea!
Best vegan chocolate brand
After the year that 2020 turned out to be, one thing we definitely needed was plenty of great chocolate on tap!
We’ve seen some of the major chocolate brands like Galaxy bringing out vegan versions, but it turns out that even the big guys can’t knock a couple of long-term favourites off the top spots in your eyes…
Winner – Moo Free
Moo Free was founded in May 2010 and have been treating vegans and those with a dairy intolerance to a ‘milk’ chocolate fix ever since.
Moo Free’s branding is bright and playful to attract kids and adults alike. Basically, their motto is that nobody should be missing out.
As well as their standard flavoured bars, Moo Free is constantly innovating and bringing out seasonal treats, so it was little surprise they won this category against stiff competition.
Head to their site to discover their Mini Moos, an Artisan range featuring indulgences such as Cinder Toffee Covered in White Chocolate, and you can now sign up for a monthly subscription!
Highly commended – Booja Booja
Booja Booja came such a close second place that we had to award them with the Highly Commended prize.
These luxury truffles are the epitome of indulgence – a rich, intense hit of good-quality cocoa matched with complementary flavours such as honeycomb caramel and toffee strudel.
The perfect choice fora gift, either for yourself or a loved one.
Best vegan burger
Who doesn’t love a good burger? And not just at barbecue time!
There has been an explosion in companies offering vegan burgers that taste way better than meat versions ever did, so the winner of this category was up against some stiff competition, but this one has really hit the mark for so many of you…
Winner – Beyond Burger
Produced by American innovator Beyond Meat, the Beyond made its way to the UK a couple of years ago and blew our minds. Juicy, succulent and moreish, it even ‘bleeds’ while it cooks. This is one that we think could fool a meat eater.
It first became available through restaurants such as Honest, which in itself is testament to how good it is, then Tesco enabled us to try it at home too.
It’s not the cheapest, but for now it seems other brands have a little way to go to replace it as the vegan favourite.
Best vegan meat alternative brand
There will always be excitement around new kids on the block, but sometimes you can’t beat experience, and this is definitely the case when it comes to this year’s winner…
Winner – Linda McCartney’s
Linda McCartney’s have been revolutionising the world of vegetarian food for decades and leading the way where many were scared to go.
Now 78% of their range is vegan-friendly and they’re constantly coming up with new products to push the boundaries.
From old favourites like Linda’s Vegetarian Sausages and Vegetarian ¼lb Burgers to recent additions such as Vegetarian Pulled Pork Bao Bun Meal Kit and Vegetarian Chicken Bucket, you can rely on them for a quick midweek dinner that’ll keep the whole family happy!
Best vegan pizza brand
While we’d all love to say that we make our own pizza bases every Friday night, we also live in the real world.
Sometimes you just want to relax after work with a classic Italian fakeaway and not have to put the effort in to get it. And that’s why amazing pizza companies exist!
This was a hotly contested category with the likes of One Planet Pizza and Pizza Express’ supermarket range, but there was one clear favourite…
Winner – White Rabbit
While working in The White Rabbit Pub in Oxford, Nick and Matteo realised that there was a gap in the market for those following a vegan or free-from diet to get great pizzas.
After years of development, in 2017 they became the first makers of chilled vegan pizza to hit supermarket shelves.
Now White Rabbit have a huge range of products to choose from (some gluten-free as well), ranging from Garlicky Focaccine and sourdough Nudies, which you can decorate yourself, to The Vegan Gardener and Vegan Arrabbiata, packed with spicy chicken-free strips and creamy MozzaRisella.
With good stocking in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Co-op, they’re easier to get hold of too!
Best vegan cheese brand
Love it or hate it, vegan cheese is a fast-growing market and it’s taken brands a very long time to perfect their recipes to create something that tastes or acts anything like its dairy counterpart.
We all know that there’s still a lot of room for improvement in some cases, but these two brands are hitting the mark…
Winner – Violife
Violife seem to always be at the forefront of vegan cheese innovation, constantly delighting us with new alternatives and upping the game when it comes to flavour, melt and usability.
After something to melt on a pizza? Opt for the Original Flavour or Mozzarella Flavour Grated. In need of that one ingredient to lift a sandwich or toastie? You can’t go wrong with the Mature Cheddar Flavour Slices.
Looking for a cheese with a bit of a kick? Go for the Block with Hot Peppers. Need a finishing touch to pasta? Presenting Prosociano Wedge.
They’ve even given us Greek White Block as a very suitable alternative to feta. Plus the coconut base is joined by added vitamin B12, so it’s helping our nutritional intake too. Winning in so many ways!
Highly commended – Applewood Vegan
Since Applewood launched a vegan version of its classic smoked cheese at the end of 2019, it’s been winning new fans all over the place.
The smooth, creamy texture and subtly smoky flavour adapts well to being melted, without the ability to coat your teeth in the same way as some other dairy-free cheeses. A very worthy runner up.
Best make-at-home launch in response to Covid-19
When Covid-19 hit the UK, none of us were ready for the effects of a national lockdown. Pubs, restaurants and cafés were all forced to close.
But rather than give up, businesses engaged their creative side, and this category is to say thank you to those who kept us going with DIY kits and home deliveries.
Special mentions to Rudy’s Vegan Dinner @home kits and The Vurger Co’s Make at Home Meal Kit, but the award goes to…
Winner – Doughnut Time DIY Vegan Doughnut Kit
As they only have shops in London, the arrival of Doughnut Time’s nationwide delivery service meant their creations could be enjoyed all over the UK.
They didn’t just offer ready-made ones though, but also kits to fill and decorate doughnuts at home. The original vegan DIY kit was the Biscoff and they’re adding seasonal kits to mix things up every few months.
We’re sold on them, and now it’s official that you are too!
Best new product launch of 2020
As we said before, Covid may have put a halt to many things in 2020, but vegan product development wasn’t one of them.
Short-listed in this category were just a handful of the many new products we saw come our way from Dominos Vegan Pizza to Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles, Horlicks Vegan and Vegan Carnation Condensed Milk.
However, our top two entries were so close that they almost received the same number of votes, so we definitely had to award a winner and a highly commended in this category!
Winner – Flora Plant Block
Flora’s Plant Block was a real game-changer, particularly when it comes to vegan baking. Available in both salted and unsalted varieties, it can be used for cooking, frying, roasting and, of course, baking, and has a deceptively rich, buttery taste.
It’s made by pressing sunflower seeds, rapeseed and 100% certified sustainable palm oil, so it’s environmentally aware as well as being cruelty-free.
It allowed bakers to add that creaminess back into their creations that had been missing before and they haven’t looked back since!
Highly commended – Pukka Vegan Pies
We’re always interested when a non-vegan company decides to listen to consumers and bring out vegan versions of their products, and this was exactly the case with Pukka.
They hit the ground running with two classic flavours – Minced Steak & Onion and Chicken & Mushroom – and what’s even better is that they kept the price the same too, rather than hike it up for the vegan version.
Great work Pukka, we can’t wait to see what else you bring out!
Best high street restaurant for vegan options
We might not have been able to visit restaurants in person as frequently as we’d have liked to in 2020, but some of our favourite chains were still launching some great new menu options for takeaways and non-lockdown times.
But for the third year running, there was one restaurant that stood head and shoulders above the rest!
Winner – Wagamama
Wagamama started 2020 with a bold addition to its menu for Veganuary. The Watermelon Tuna was made from dehydrated watermelon, which was sliced, seared and served hot alongside a miso sesame sauce and rice.
This was followed for 2021’s Veganuary menu by king oyster mushroom-based Chilli Squid, Vegan Sticky Ribs and No-Duck Donburi.
Wagamama is constantly pushing the boundaries and testing out new combinations that often sound like they shouldn’t work, but really do!
They’re not satisfied for vegans to have to put up with boring options when visiting a restaurant with non-vegan friends, and want to bring just as much excitement to all dinners. Very worthy winners in our eyes and yours!
Best café/coffee shop for vegan options
By the time we came out of the first lockdown, everyone was itching to get their hands on a cup of coffee made by a proper barista – we don’t think any of us realised how much we’d miss our favourite café, and now we definitely don’t take them for granted.
The lovely thing about the chains is that over the last couple of years they’ve really upped their game when it comes to vegan food options too.
Winner – Pret
Pret won vegan hearts when they launched Veggie Pret branches – the only complaint is that they haven’t spread all over the country yet!
Even in traditional Pret branches there are good vegan offerings, with many of the most popular inventions at Veggie Pret eventually making their way to standard stores.
For those lucky enough to live near a Veggie Pret, the summer of 2020 saw vegan bakery counters introduced, and for the rest of us the hit of 2020 was the range of vegan croissants (plain, almond, chocolate or very berry) to brighten up breakfast, and January’s addition of the Meatless Meatball Wrap was a crowd-pleaser.
Best supermarket for vegan options
No one can deny that shopping for vegan food in a mainstream supermarket has become 100% easier over the last few years, as all the supermarkets compete to have the biggest and best vegan range. 2020 even saw Asda launch a dedicated vegan ambient aisle, which was huge news.
But which supermarket is leading the way in your eyes? Again, this category was very closely fought, so we’ve awarded two top entries…
Tesco indicated their dedication to serving the vegan community when they brought Wicked Healthy’s Derek Sarno over from the States to head up their vegan development team.
Not only has he launched ranges that are exclusive to Tesco with Wicked Kitchen and Plant Chef, but he’s also fantastic at encouraging other big brands to come across to the UK, making Tesco the most desirable supermarket to have your vegan product in.
Beyond Burger chose Tesco as the first UK supermarket to stock their products and last year The Unbelievable Alt, GreenVie and Fray Bentos all chose to launch first into this forward-thinking supermarket.
Other supermarkets are certainly hot on Tesco’s heels, but for now they’re managing to maintain their position as number one in vegans’ eyes.
Highly commended – Sainsbury’s
Sainsbury’s has definitely been showing Tesco some healthy levels of competition over the last two or three years when it comes to their vegan products.
They even choose to launch a vegan shoe range at the end of 2019, not confining their development to food.
As with Tesco, they’re attracting some of the big brands for new product launches, with Leon and Zizzi both choosing to launch ranges into Sainsbury’s first in 2020.
The key to success lies in combining a large choice selection of vegan products with the ability to offer something that competitors aren’t, and both Tesco and Sainsbury’s are doing extremely well in ticking both of these boxes.
Best own-brand vegan supermarket range
This is the award that every supermarket wants to win. It’s one thing being the best for stocking a variety of different vegan products, but it’s something else to win the award for a range that you’ve developed yourself.
With Tesco’s Wicked Kitchen, Sainsbury’s Plant Pioneers, Asda’s Plant Based and Morrisons’ V Taste ranges all up for the vote, the competition was very hot indeed, but in the end there was one clear winner…
Winner – Plant Kitchen by M&S
The news that Marks & Spencer were launching a vegan range in January 2019 went down a storm. It was called Plant Kitchen and people had high hopes for the quality thanks to M&S’ reputation for creating luxury food.
No one was disappointed. M&S then upped their game even more by adding 100 new products in January 2020, including the popular No Chicken Kiev, Tofish and Chips and even a rich and creamy coleslaw.
They kept the momentum up through 2020, adding No Chick’n Gyoza, vegan ice cream cones, cheesecake, fishcakes and even No Pork Streaky Bacon to the mix.
It takes a lot to beat Tesco’s Wicked Kitchen, but Plant Kitchen has taken the title this year and it’s more than deserved.
Well done to all our winners!
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