It’s that time of year again. Slimming ads are dominating TV screens, gym memberships are temporarily spiking and phrases like ‘new year, new you’ are adding to the general dysphoria of January. And, of course, there’s the latest addition to the binge-and-remorse cycle: Veganuary.

According to organisers, a total of two million people are expected to have taken part globally by the end of this month, as another record-breaking year of sign-ups is forecast. Whether it be for the perceived health benefits, environmental reasons or simply to try something new, a growing cross-section of the population is taking up the challenge.

All of which makes this month a crucial – and lucrative – time for plant-based suppliers. Except this year, there is a sizeable fly in the ointment. A number of brands are suffering from supply problems and may be unable to meet the spike in demand, The Telegraph reported yesterday. The threat has prompted some “careful planning” at Quorn, which has been readying stocks to prevent empty shelves.

Quorn has, of course, been burned before. In Veganuary 2020, it suffered some ill-timed supply problems. The brand claimed these issues were behind its lacklustre annual performance: volumes were down 10% despite double-digit growth in the overall meat-free category [Nielsen 52 w/e 5 September 2020]. So, as CEO Marco Bertacca told The Grocer last year, it has been taking steps to prevent any repeat of the problems (plus, it’s launched five new products in time for this month’s event).

Other vegan brands are likely not as practised in coping with disruption – which could have ramifications well beyond Veganuary. After all, many shoppers will be entering the category for the first time this month. And the products they choose are likely to form the basis of longer-lasting habits, according to a survey of 1,000 people conducted for The Grocer by Lumina Intelligence. The research found only 4% of those who completed Veganuary went back to their old eating habits – 28% went vegan as a result, 33% followed the diet for a short time afterwards and 36% continued to eat plant-based food more regularly.

In other words, Veganuary is one of those rare moments when products can easily get themselves on to a weekly shopping list. If a brand isn’t available, it can’t compete – and rivals will take that spend. That could prove a particular challenge for less well-known brands who, unlike Quorn, need Veganuary to raise awareness of who they are.

So as suppliers prepare for another Veganuary, it may not be the most innovative, affordable or tastiest products that win big – it could simply come down to who is on the shelves.