Why is vegan food so expensive?


There are tons of vegan products that have suddenly hit the supermarket shelves. There’s the Wicked Kitchen range at Tesco, pulled jackfruit at Sainsbury’s, vegan hot cross buns at Asda and this week Diageo, the drinks giant, has brought out a vegan version of Baileys: Almande. It uses almond milk, rather than dairy milk.

But they all seem quite pricey. The Almande, for instance, costs £16 at Asda, compared with £10 for standard Baileys. I looked at this for Radio 4’s You and Yours programme, which you can listen to here [my bit starts at 31mins].

I mentioned the mark up was often more than 50 per cent. Well, here’s a table to prove it. Caveat: yes, it’s very hard to find the exact same non-vegan version for some of these ready meals. But I tried to be fair on the supermarkets by picking premium versions.


Vegan product Price Non-vegan equivalent Price Price premium%
Pizza Hut margherita £9.95 [all vegan pizzas = £1 surcharge] Pizza Hut margherita £8.95  11%
Tesco Wicked Kitchen mushroom bolognese, 400g £4 Tesco Finest spaghetti bolognese 400g, £3.70 8.1%
Tesco Wicked Kitchen teriyaki noodles (with mushrooms and veg), 270g £4 Tesco chicken teriyaki noodle pot, 300g £1.50 166%
Sainsbury’s mushroom mince, x2 – 500g total £3 Sainsbury’s beef mince 20% fat, 500g £2 50%
Sacla vegan mayonnaise, 180g, Sainsbury’s £2.30 Hellmann’s mayonnaise, 200g £1.55 48%
Sainsbury’s Cumberland shroomdogs*, x6, 400g £2.50 Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Cumberland pork sausages, x6, 400g £2 25%
Sainsbury’s smokey pulled jackfruit, 350g, £3 £8.57 per kg Sainsbury’s slow cooked pulled pork, 599g, £3.50 £5.85 per kg 46%
Asda free from mature cheddar, 200g, £2 £10 per kg Asda mature cheddar, 500g, £2.90 £5.80 per kg 72%
Baileys Almande (dairy free), 70cl, Asda £16 Baileys Irish cream liqueur, 70cl, Asda £10 60%
Violife Mediterranean style block (halloumi), 200g, Morrisons, £2.56 £12.80 per kg Morrisons Cypriot Halloumi, 250g, £2 £8 per kg 60%
Costa coconut milk Americano £2.75

[45p surcharge on all coconut drinks]

Costa normal Americano £2.30 17%
Waitrose Good Health mushroom and miso stir fry bites, 210g, £3.50 £16.70 per kg Waitrose Good Health harissa chicken meatballs, 360g, £3.20 £9.14 per kg 83%
Iceland No Bull plant burger**, x2 quarter pounders, £2 £8.82 per kg Iceland Luxury Aberdeen Angus, x4 quarter pounders, £2 £4.41 per kg 100%
Average premium 57.5%

*Not technically vegan. Contains Egg Albumin Powder

**No Bull is launched at start of April

The Vegan Society says there’s a good reason for the mark-ups. “The reason animal products are so cheap is because of factory farming; animals have been selectively bred to produce more dairy and eggs than they naturally would and to grow faster. They are cramped together in damp, dark halls and fed carefully designed, cheap diets to cut down production costs.”

But this still doesn’t explain why some chopped up mushrooms are more expensive than minced beef. Mushrooms take a matter of days to grow in a dark room. Cattle take months, lots of animal feed and a lot of costs. Sainsbury’s gave a less than convincing response why vegans were being charged more. A spokesperson said: “The cost of individual products is determined by a number of factors and prices can fluctuate, both up and down, as a consequence.”

Yes, manufacturing some vegan products might be a bit more complicated. And there are economies of scale to consider – a supplier will be buying tons of pulled pork, and only a few kilograms of pulled jackfruit. But I suspect a lot of this is down to taking advantage of people jumping on the vegan bandwagon.


4 thoughts on “Why is vegan food so expensive?

  1. Paul Vaughan says:

    It’s a rip off to be vegan without sticking to a very very bland dietary existence. Milk is especially alarming to me, before veganism MAXIMUM £2 a week, now between £15-£16 a week just to use for essentials as per cows milk usage. I have 2 children and a wife, I am the sole breadwinner and this is my one major “Oh My God” fact about going vegan. Yet to attempt to make my own oat milk/cheese but it’s definitely on the horizon. If this ends up being a failed experiment it may well force my hand to retreat from my very proud move of dropping everything I love to back down to vegetarianism instead. PS. Oat milk is king. Tried all vegan alternatives and oat milk truly wins hands down but it’s very expensive,(as most milk substitutes are, unless soy is your choice as supermarkets often do cheap own brand versions).

    I would love to believe with the ever surging popularity of veganism that prices will become “Fairer” but knowing what rip off Britain is like I doubt i’ll live to see it!

    Good article👍


  2. skiamakhos says:

    We need to campaign about this. Veganism is much lighter in terms of environmental impact. The meat and dairy industries are a large part of what’s killing the planet. I’d love to go vegan but for example the amount of milk my household gets through for cereals & cups of tea is horrendous. You get about 1 litre of soy milk in Tesco for the price of 6 pints of cows’ milk. This cannot stand. Write to MPs, newspapers etc.


  3. Christopher Wise says:

    My guess as to why Vegan products are so expensive is the market they are aimed at. I.E. the middle-class pseudo-intellectuals. If you tried to sell a product to them that was cheap enough for the working masses there would be nowhere near the same attraction.
    Let’s face it, it’s win,win all the way for them. Do less, make less and get more. And an appeased consience to boot.


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