The lowdown on the vegan alcohol market

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As the vegan food and drink market continues to witness explosive growth, the alcohol market is well and truly joining the party.

Not all alcohol is vegan. Some products, like liqueurs, can often contain dairy-based cream, while other spirits can have honey added. Other ingredients can include pepsin (stomach enzyme from pigs), chitin (derived from lobster or crab shell) and carmine (crushed scales of the cochineal insect), all of which are not suitable for the vegan diet.

Aside from the added ingredients that are not vegan, alcohol can contain other fragments of products such as gelatine, egg whites and isinglass, which are often used in the alcohol production and filtering process to make drinks appear clearer and brighter. The good news is that the market is moving forward with some interesting vegan innovation across the main sectors.

Vegan beer picking up momentum

vegan beerMany leading beers, including Budweiser, Coors, Corona and Heineken are already vegan, and in 2018, after growing demand, all Guinness products finally became vegan after the manufacturer dropped isinglass (fish bladders) from the filtering process, which had been in place at their factories for over 250 years. This was a definitive moment in the market.

Lots of craft beers have been popping up over the last few years, and many are offering vegan products, like Bellfield Brewery, which sports a large direct-to-consumer selection, and B-Corp brand Toast Ale, which not only has vegan beers but also uses surplus bread from the bakery sector in a bid to reduce food waste.

Gifting has also crossed over nicely into the sector, with companies like Best of British Beer and Not on the High Street now offering full vegan craft beer sets too.

Check out our look into what makes beer not always suitable for vegans.

Heineken leading the innovation in vegan ciders

vegan ciderA lot of ciders still use gelatine in the process, and some add non-vegan colourings like carmine to make them appear red. But Thatchers’s entire range is vegan-friendly, along with Stowford Press, Aspall, Broadoack and Hogans.

Standout brand Heineken has just launched a new sustainable, vegan and gluten-free cider brand called Inches, which is made from apples sourced within 40 miles from the mill. The company also uses all the waste from the apples, converting them into green energy.

Heineken has also recently added a vegan and gluten-free watermelon and lime version to its Old Mout cider brand.

Vegan wines get a celebrity lift

vegan wineUndoubtedly, the fastest part of the market belongs to vegan wines, which have been gathering in popularity over the last couple of years. In 2020, Cameron Diaz launched her own brand of vegan wine, Avaline, which is not only free from all animal ingredients, but is organic too. Apart from its direct-to-consumer platform in the US, it’s also drummed up distribution in 2,500 stores, proving that vegans definitely have an appetite for good wine.

Recently, Marks and Spencer made the pledge to make all its own-label wines vegan by 2022. The supermarket states that 70% of its wine is already vegan-friendly. Taking it to 100% really makes a statement in the market that other supermarkets will doubtless want to consider with their wine ranges.

Targeting the online market in the UK, Vegan Wines Online also has a notable collection of vegan-approved wines including organic, low-sulphur and bio-dynamic options to choose from.

Vegan spirits and liqueurs bumble along

baileys almandeMovements in this part of the market have been much slower than in the other areas, as most spirits do tend to be “accidentally vegan” unless they have had honey added, which will be in the name, like honey whiskey.

Brands including Smirnoff, Pimm’s, Bacardi, Tia Maria and Captain Morgan Rum all fall into that “accidentally vegan” bracket. In 2016, Baileys, a traditionally dairy-based creamy liqueur, decided to launch a vegan product, Almande, made with soy and almond instead of cow’s milk.

Two years later, Besos De Oro also followed with a duo of vegan liqueurs in cream and chocolate flavours using tiger nut milk, which as well as being vegan, are soy- and gluten-free. The latest innovation in this sector happened just last month with Artic Blue Beverages, launching an oat-based dairy-free gin liqueur that is set to go on sale first in Finland, before rolling out across the globe later this year.

It’s never been easier to identify in-store or online which alcohol products are vegan, as most, if not all, manufacturers tend to shout about their suitability on the packaging. There is also a useful database put together on Barnivore, which contains 50,000 alcoholic drinks all over the world and can tell you instantly if your favourite tipple is vegan or not. Cheers to the future of the vegan alcohol market!

Lisa Gawthorne
Lisa Gawthorne
Lisa Gawthorne is one of the Co-Founders of vegan food marketing and distribution business Bravura Foods. Lisa’s been vegan for eighteen years and vegetarian since age six. She is a regular public speaker on the topics of veganism, athletics, business and climate change. Author of the health and fitness book Gone in 60 Minutes, Lisa is also on Team GB for her age group as a plant-powered Duathlete and is also an England and British Masters runner.