In the run-up to Easter, new research has revealed that online demand for vegan chocolate in the UK has plummeted by almost 25% year-on-year.

Market researchers Ashbury analysed UK Google Search data for more than 1,000 vegan-related items in 2021-22 and 2022-23 to determine the year-on-year changes in consumer demand for vegan chocolate alternatives.

Searches for terms related to ‘vegan chocolate’ have seen a 23% fall year on year. Despite the efforts of supermarkets, it appears demand for ‘vegan easter eggs’ has also plummeted with a 30% decrease in searches from 2021-2022.

Terms like ‘vegan dark chocolate’ and ‘cocoa butter vegan’ both saw a decline of 23%. The specific search term ‘vegan chocolate’ was among the hardest hit by the decrease in searches with a 28% decline since last year. Searches for ‘vegan mint chocolate chip ice cream’ plummeted by 21% and ‘vegan hot chocolate’ also saw a decline of 20%.

Ashbury thinks one important factor could be the cost-of-living crisis with the price of vegan chocolate usually being higher than traditional confectionery.

Dietician Lydia Collins-Hussey said: “For the allergic consumer, it is important to have vegan and free-from options available and I’m surprised that data is showing a reduction in demand but this could be down to many things such as the cost of living crisis and the expensive nature of some vegan products.”

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By GlobalData

But Sal Hanvey, of food intolerance specialist YorkTest, put forward another reason for the apparent fall in demand.

“One theory as to why the percentage of people consuming this type of chocolate is on the decrease, is perhaps due to the taste, and us becoming used to something tasting a certain way, the way we have always enjoyed it,” he said.

“From looking at the data, it would certainly suggest that consumers are valuing taste above any health benefits that vegan chocolate alternatives might boast.”

‘Skimpflation’, or choosing lower-priced products over quality, is set to remain a key trend influencing food purchasing habits in 2023, analysts forecast. Categories most vulnerable to trading down are chocolate, confectionery and desserts and pet products, data suggests.