The Ultimate Guide To Vegan Shopping

Truly against all odds, 2020 was a great year for veganism.

The vegan market has been experiencing a steady growth since the 2010s, but it’s in the past two years that this previously unknown fringe diet has become a mainstream trend worldwide, so much so that the food, beauty, and fashion industries have been working hard to incorporate vegan options for a demanding new audience.

Walk down any high street and you’ll see what we’re talking about first-hand: fast-food giants KFC and Burger King now offer plant-based mock meat options that perfectly replicate their classic burger patties, vegan cheese pizzas are all the rage, veteran shoe brands are ditching leather, and Gregg’s humble vegan sausage roll has pretty much single-handedly saved the struggling company, becoming nothing short than a cultural zeitgeist in the process.

Veganism has entered the mainstream world and it is here to stay. Yet, despite the growing number of plant-based food options, cruelty-free beauty products, and sustainable animal-free clothing, there are still many people who are puzzled by the idea of renouncing all animal products. On the other side of the spectrum, many of those who wish to gradually transition to a plant-based diet and cruelty-free lifestyle are also struggling to understand what’s really available to them and where exactly they should start from to make their new lifestyle stick past Veganuary.

This guide wants to answer that exact question: where should you start from when it comes to vegan shopping? What are the ingredients you should look out for and where can you get your vegan shopping sorted in the most convenient, stress-free way? From health food shops, to accidentally vegan products and the growing world of vegan online shops, conscious consumers are truly spoiled for choice in 2021 – and we’re so happy to be playing our part in this revolutionary shift too!

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Why shop vegan?

Before we dive into the different options available to shop vegan and easy in the golden age of plant-based living, we should identify what veganism is and what it isn’t, and try to figure out what exactly has made this lifestyle and diet so popular to begin with.

Why shop vegan in the first place? Why renounce all the products we have grown up with, the products that are constantly advertised to us as “the only way”, to embrace a lifestyle that will force us to swim against the current?

If the arguments for veganism weren’t so valid and engaging, the movement would have never reached the heights it has in the past five years. Whether you’ve avoided all animal products in your food, fashion, and household products for a long time or you’ve just come to give this lifestyle a try as a way to jump-start your health journey, there are dozens of compelling reasons why veganism has struck a chord with so many people all over the world. Let us walk through some of them!

Why choose vegan food products?

Vegans follow a plant-based diet, meaning that they avoid meat, fish, dairy, eggs, or any other animal by-product that may be lurking in household name items and brands. However, the philosophy of veganism goes further than just avoiding animal products in one’s diet alone: animal products in clothing, toiletries, and household products are also on the list of things vegans aim to steer clear of.

The reasons why vegans, eco-conscious individuals, and fitness enthusiasts alike choose to not consume animal-derived foods are mainly centred around ethical, environmental, and health arguments.

When it comes to ethics, the animal agriculture industry is seen as cruel, exploitative, and unnecessary for society – it’s certainly not hard to see why, no matter how “humane” the industry claims to be! Environmentally speaking, adopting a vegan diet is hands-down the most impactful way to lower your carbon footprint: just one person going vegan can save over 200,000 gallons of water a year, cut agricultural GHG emissions in half, and cut land use by a whopping 76%.

And what about health? Despite everything we’ve been taught about the importance of meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, your body can not only function “just fine” without eating these products daily – it can function much better when powered by plants. A balanced vegan diet  is in fact believed to be the optimal human diet, largely reducing our risk of autoimmune diseases like heart disease (one of the world’s biggest killers), type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

Why choose vegan beauty products?

It seems like most major beauty brands have finally caught up with the times: testing products on bunnies has never been a popular practice by any means, but cruelty-free beauty is now the new normal.

So, what does a Leaping Bunny logo actually mean?

Certified cruelty-free products are products that have not been tested on animals at any point during the production, with no unnamed third-party testing on animals on their behalf, and with no “special exception” for selling to countries where the law requires animal testing (like China). Read about the difference between cruelty-free and vegan here.

But while animal testing for makeup and other common beauty products is out of style once and for all, but that doesn’t mean you can purchase any item you see at Sephora with complete peace of mind and a clear conscience: not all cruelty-free products are actually vegan. Hidden (and often hard-to-pronounce) animal by-products like gelatine, guanine, shellac, and carmine, routinely show up in makeup, hair and skincare products to add shine and moisture. Read our blog post on 10 Shocking Non-Vegan Beauty Ingredients here.

If you think that the time to put bugs all over your face, skin, and hair is well past the 21st century, don’t worry – vegan and cruelty-free beauty companies are numerous and thriving, showing that you don’t need animals for that showstopping glow.

Why choose vegan fashion brands?

Many pieces of clothing and accessories contain animal products: leather, suede, wool, silk, down, and fur are the biggest culprits. Vegans and environmentally conscious people alike try to avoid purchasing and wearing these items as much as possible; a task that’s definitely gotten easier now that cruelty-free closets have entered the mainstream.

We’ve definitely seen a global shift from fast, cheap fashion to independent “slow fashion” and ethical manufacturing, so much so that people everywhere are for the first time asking where their clothes come from, who made them, and how sustainable these items might be for the good of our planet. Killing animals for the sake of dress shoes and handbags? Clearly not “in” anymore!

So, what’s in fashion instead? Just like beauty brands have decided to cater to a more conscious audience, independent vegan fashion brands have made it their mission to offer high-quality garments and accessories that don’t sacrifice the animals and the planet for the sake of fashion trends.

Why choose vegan household products?

The Leaping Bunny initiative is not just all about saving bunnies and beagles from cosmetic testing, it’s also a handy certification for all sorts of household items. Your everyday washing liquid, fabric softener, hand wash soap, and window cleaner can also be tested on animals too!

Cruelty-free has become the norm thanks, in part, to the 2013 EU ban on cosmetic animal testing, a finish line that has yet to find its counterpart in the household and cleaning products industry. Most household products available on the market are neither cruelty-free nor vegan, so finding the perfect product that will work for your cleaning needs and ethical beliefs at the same time can be much of a challenge.

Thankfully, the industry is catching up with the demand for kinder products, with independent household and cleaning products companies offering a growing range of cruelty-free and vegan-friendly everyday toiletries and garden products.

Why choose vegan pet food?

Unsurprisingly, vegan pets and vegan diets for pets are hot-button topics that still spark huge debates within and outside the vegan community.

While cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they need heavy quantities of meat in their diets in order to survive, dogs are technically omnivores who can follow a 100% plant-based diet. Of course, feeding your pup a vegan diet is going to be a challenge that should not be taken lightly: you should consult with your vet every step of the way, make sure all their nutritional needs are covered, and do your best to find high-quality vegan food and treats that will keep them healthy and nourished.

Building your vegan grocery list

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If you’re completely new to veganism, your first trip to the shops is likely going to feel like a brand-new challenge, albeit a fun one.

Just because you know what’s vegan and what’s not, it doesn’t mean that you’ll know exactly what you should be putting on your plate on a daily basis. Following a 100% or mostly plant-based diet means relearning what the optimal food pyramid looks like, finding new brands to replace your old non-vegan favourites, and get familiar with dozens of new ingredients and foods. Shopping for toiletries and clothing is going to be different too: what you see on your local supermarket’s shelves won’t be all up for grabs if you want to reduce your impact on the planet and refuse to support animal suffering. You’re going to be limited to a handful of options you’ve probably never tried before, and you’ll be confronted with the demanding task of breaking habits of a lifetime.

Truth be told, going vegan (or mostly plant-based) can feel like you’re giving up the convenience of your previous lifestyle for a life of checking ingredients labels and frantic googling.

It doesn’t sound very appealing but, thankfully, it really doesn’t have to be that way anymore!

Where can I buy vegan food and products near me?

If you want to stay healthy, vibrant, and focused, much of what you’re going to be eating on a vegan diet is going to come from the earth. Everyday foods like rice, potatoes, oats, leafy veg, pasta, bread, beans, fruit, and nuts are 100% plant-based and 100% accessible and healthy. This means that you’ll be able to find all types of produce, legumes, and grains at your local grocer’s and chain supermarket – when it comes to whole foods plant products, getting what you need is easy as ever.

Need ideas on what to shop for when on a vegan diet? You can start building your next shopping list by starting with the basics: vegan pantry essentials that you are likely to find at a store near you.

Things get a little more complicated when we take into consideration other vegan staples like non-dairy milk, vegan spread, meat substitutes, cheese substitutes, baked goods, frozen goods, breakfast cereal, and savoury and sweet snacks. Big supermarket chains in the UK and Europe now offer plenty of plant-based milks, dairy-free buttery spreads, frozen meat substitutes, and even store-brand vegan cheeses and yogurts!

Depending on where you live, however, the range of products available at your local supermarket will vary greatly. Major supermarkets in the UK are definitely making an effort to make the vegan shopping easier and more convenient, but if you’re looking for the same variety of options non-vegans get on a daily basis, you should consider better ways to shop vegan instead.

Find a vegan store

One of the best ways to avoid time-consuming label and ingredient checks and get a lot more variety in your range of vegan goods is to shop in vegan stores. Independent vegan shops are becoming increasingly more popular, stocking everything from gelatine-free sweets to faux leather boots, and making vegan shopping more convenient for vegans everywhere.

Health food shops will also carry a wider variety of vegan-friendly goods, but you shouldn’t automatically assume that everything labelled “natural” and “healthy” will in fact be vegan.

Does it all sound too good to be true? Well, there’s a catch: despite vegan shops becoming more popular, stores that carry exclusively vegan items are still few and far in between, especially if you don’t live in a sprawling urban area. Travelling for hours to get to the nearest vegan shop doesn’t quite meet the definition of convenient, no matter how well-stocked this little hidden gem may be!

So, what’s a vegan to do if they want convenient, reliable, and ethical groceries available to them at the click of a button? The answer is quite simple…

Make your life easier with vegan online shopping

In the world where Amazon has taken the lead in retail sales, online shopping has quickly become consumers’ favourite way to get their weekly shop, birthday presents,  and Christmas gifts sorted. It doesn’t really come as a surprise that vegan online shopping services are thriving just as much, presenting as the hands-down most convenient option for vegan shopping, no matter where you live or how much time you’ve got on your hands.

There’s a lot that can be said about the benefits of vegan online shopping, but one of our favourites is the variety of amazing products you can get when shopping vegan online. Whether it’s hard-to-find vegan food gems, sustainable vegan clothing, shoes, wallets, and bags, or handmade cruelty-free and animal products-free soaps, you are guaranteed to find something you’ll love on the world wide web. 

You won’t have to check any labels and google any weird ingredients in the process, knowing with full peace of mind that everything you’re purchasing is coming from a place of compassion and kindness – something that’ll make your shopping routine feel so much enjoyable! 

So, where and how do you start? There’s no better time than now and there’s no better resource than here – happy research, and happy shopping!

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