IN CONVERSATION WITH VEGANUARY CEO, RIA REHBERG ABOUT WHAT MOTIVATES PEOPLE TO TAKE THE PLEDGE
As we enter a new year, one of the resolutions that increasing numbers of people are making is to try vegan for 31 days, a pledge that has become known as Veganuary.
Famous participants in this pledge that has just marked its tenth anniversary include rock legend Brian May, TV presenter Jasmine Harman, wildlife presenter Chris Packham, actor Peter Egan, ‘dragon’ Deborah Meaden and Eastender’s Kellie Bright.
About 85% of non-vegan past participants have reduced their consumption of animal products since doing Veganuary, with the majority citing animal welfare as a motivating factor for taking part.
Against this backdrop, it was my pleasure to talk to Veganuary’s CEO, Ria Rehberg who talked to me about her passion for the role and what is driving her to expand the pledge’s international presence.
Why Veganuary and what are you trying to achieve with it?
I joined Veganuary almost four years ago now because I was in London, and I was blown away by how omnipresent veganism was at that time. I would go into a supermarket, and I would see shelves with vegan products, with a big Veganuary fixture on top of it, I’d turn on the TV and I’d see veganism discussed and I’d walk down the street and every single restaurant would have vegan products and options.
I was really impressed at how this really small organisation had made veganism omnipresent in January and made it the month about veganism and plant-based eating.
That really is what Veganuary is about for me, of creating a moment in time where plant-based eating is at the forefront of everyone’s mind and making it easy for people to make that switch or try that switch for a month.
With reducing meat consumption such an issue of growing concern, do people participating in Veganuary actually eat less meat afterwards?
We’re seeing with a lot of people actually; about 80% of our participants cut their meat consumption by at least 50% after their first month of Veganuary. And that really is what we’re all about and what we want to support going forward.
How do companies respond to Veganuary?
In the UK, a lot of companies have seen it as an opportunity. They knew there was going to be a lot of movement and talk about Veganism. There were going to be loads of people that would try a plant-based diet in January. They just saw it as an opportunity to launch products to cater to that audience.
Having started in the UK, is Veganuary set to go international?
Now we’re not just in the UK but we’re in seven different countries around the world.
We have a team in Germany and the US, and Chile, Argentina, Brazil and India.
In all of these countries we’re very actively encouraging and getting in touch with companies to support them to launch new vegan products in January and all year round and ideally keeping those products on the shelves.
So, making sure that they understand how this moment in time is an opportunity to talk to their customers about trying a healthier, and a better and a more environmentally friendly diet.
What’s the situation with meat consumption in Germany?
Veganism is everywhere, it’s really omnipresent, it’s very positively associated, you’ll see that restaurants that aren’t vegan will have vegan options that they highlight on menus and outside their stores because that is what’s driving customers to come in.
We’re seeing loads of alternative products and vegan options for everything in all of the major supermarkets, so things have really changed significantly.
And we’re seeing that meat consumption is going down as well, especially in the last six months it’s dropped significantly with prices of meat going up, we’ve seen a 10 per cent decrease in meat consumption in Germany.
Why should people get involved with Veganuary?
We know that people do Veganuary for three different reasons: either for their own health, for animals or for the environment. And usually, especially the people who do it for their own health, they see benefits right after the first month of taking part.
So, we see through our surveys that around 50 percent of everyone participating in Veganuary sees health benefits just after the first month of taking part.
And what I think is more significant is they feel more strongly about animal and environmental reasons after they’ve taken part, so I think it’s a win-win; a lot of people will feel better after doing it, but they will also feel they’re doing their bit to protect animals and the environment.