Yorkshire-based sausage maker Heck has got rid of most its vegan range, after admitting the market ‘wasn’t quite ready’ for the new products, and suggesting the vegan market had been over-hyped.
Heck, which has enjoyed significant growth after launching its first products onto the market more than 10 years ago, revealed it had cut its vegan range from around 15 products down to just two as shoppers swerved meat-free meals.
Andrew Keeble, the company’s co-founder, told the Telegraph the company introduced a ‘huge range of vegan products, because like everyone else, we believed what was being written in the press’.
“If you look at the massive sort of Silicon Valley valuations out there, people were investing in vegan brands and they didn’t want to miss the next Google,” he said.
“The vegan market is really funny. We actually had some amazing products out there that were very functional, very good for your gut – [such as] one with quinoa and beetroot in it.
“But the public somehow wasn’t quite ready for it yet. They didn’t want all that veg in the sausage.”
Sales of meat-free products dropped by £37.3m in the supermarkets over the year to 10 September 2022, according to figures from NielsenIQ published in The Grocer. Meanwhile Assosia data published in March showed the number of meat alternative lines stocked by Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose fell by 10.9% over the six months to March 20, the article said.
Nonetheless, Mr Keeble added that the company was ‘still committed to vegan’. “I think in time, as the market settles down and develops, I think the lovely quinoa, beautiful sausages will come back. I think that’s what people really want. I don’t think they really want false meat. But the market is not that developed yet,” he said.
Heck has also changed the casings of its pork sausages from seaweed-based alginate, commonly used across the sausage industry, to traditional but pricier collagen skins, which are usually made from beef or pork hides, in a bid to improve the sensation of biting into the sausages.
Mr Keeble founded Heck with his wife, Deborah, in 2012. The company turned over £26.2m in the year to July 2022, posting a loss of £161,999 as costs soared, the Telegraph reported.
But Mr Keeble said: “We’re very much on the front floor, lots of cash in the bank. And we’re looking to continue to grow. If you look at the cost of living crisis at the moment, I’m sort of hoping… that sausages are a really good place to be because they’re not an expensive meal.
“Our typical pack of sausages now, as of last week, was about £3.20, up to £3.40. If you have that with a couple of baked potatoes or a can of beans, it’s still really, really cheap. It’s half the price of a McDonald’s.
“The next two years, I think we’re going to be in a really, really good place.”