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Lessons learned from brands who veganised classic products

Executive Summary

Veganizing your existing product range can be a great way to improve your product’s health benefits (e.g. zero cholesterol, lower fat), reduce allergens, extend product shelf life, fulfill your sustainability goals, and access the burgeoning plant-based/reducetarian consumer segment. 

We’ve identified the following key learnings that manufacturers should consider when aiming to replace animal ingredients:

  • Aim for multi-functional ingredients to keep your ingredients label short.
  • Prioritize taste and texture in your formulation – work with a tasting and feedback service (like ours) to ensure that your product will be a hit with consumers.
  • Use state-of-the art equipment to achieve new results with familiar plant-protein bases.
  • Manufacture in a dedicated plant-based facility to ensure cost-effective production and avoid contamination problems.
  • Prioritize veganizing your ready meals, baked goods, snacks, and confectionery – these often only have one or two animal ingredients, and constitute a huge commercial white space.


Many food products only contain one or two animal-based ingredients (typically egg or milk powder). New food technologies mean that it’s now easy to replace animal ingredients with plant-based alternatives. You can achieve the same great functionality and taste while lowering production costs and protecting the planet. Moreover, you can grow your market share at a time when consumer demand for plant-based products is sky-rocketing. In the US, for instance, demand for plant-based alternatives that directly replace animal products grew by 27% in the past year.1 In this white paper, we’ll show you how to unlock that juicy, planty revenue.

Goats in a tree
Money doesn’t grow on trees, and neither do animal-based ingredients. (These goats are just visiting). Image source: The Telegraph

Webinar: Lessons learned from brands who veganised classic products

Join us for an interactive discussion on this topic featuring industry experts, Carole Bingley, Jochen Pfeifer, and Corjan van den Berg.

Key benefits of switching to plant-based ingredients

Veganizing your legacy range is a great way to:

  • retain consumers (who are increasingly becoming reducetarian).
  • attract new vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian consumers.
  • reduce manufacturing costs (if you do it right).
  • reduce your CO2 equivalent footprint.
  • expand product appeal by shortening the allergen declaration list.
  • extend product shelf life in some products (e.g. dry egg replacers can last for years).
  • improve price stability (by using long-life plant-based ingredients).
graph showing how European consumers are reducing their consumption of animal-based products
Image source: ProVeg

Case Study: Upfield goes plant-based for the planet

Switching to plant-based ingredients can lower production costs and emissions. Plant-based spreads (modern margarine), for example, have a significantly lower environmental footprint than butter. Whichever way you look at it – from global warming, to eutrophication, to acidification potential, to health – margarine is the winner. Removing unnecessary animal-based products also frees up farmland for plant-based proteins or reforestation – creating a classic ‘double dividend’ for the environment. At the same time, all of this lowers costs for manufacturers, reduces supply-chain risk, and makes your product available to the 75% of adults worldwide who are lactose intolerant.2

graph of butter vs margarine CO2
Butter has an environmental footprint of 25kg CO2-eq./kg compared to just 0.8kg CO2-eq./kg generated by margarine. Toast, anyone?

Upfield owns a number of vegan brands, including Rama, Violife, and Flora Plant. As part of their ambitious sustainability commitments and net-zero roadmap, the company recently announced plans to become 100% plant-based by 2025.3

If you take our spread brands and compare the carbon footprint to dairy butter we’re so much better. But our consumers weren’t aware – so we calculate the carbon equivalence of our products from cradle to grave. We’re very transparent – our methods are on the website.”

Senior CSR team at Upfield

interviewed by ProVeg

(Upfield are also rolling out carbon labeling across their product range. Check out our paper on eco-friendly labeling to ensure that your brand is meeting consumer preferences.)

Margarine also demonstrates how replacing animal-based ingredients with plant-based options can reduce manufacturing costs. These savings can be passed onto consumers. For instance, in Germany, butter typically retails at more than €2 per 250g, whereas margarine costs less than €1 for the same quantity.4

Selection of margarines
Cheap. Sustainable. Functional. Tasty.5

Stay tuned for our case study on Hema, who replaced butter with plant-based fats in order to veganize their classic apple pie.

If you’re looking for help veganizing your products, ProVeg is ready to help. Our One Ingredient team has worked with companies such as Hema, Madame Coco’s, and Donny Craves in the Netherlands, as well as a host of major retailers in Germany. We support the conversion of existing products to plant-based formulations without compromising on taste or functionality. Just email [email protected] to find out more. 

Which food categories should you veganize first?

The easy ones! These categories often have products that are just one or two ingredients away from being fully plant-based:

  • Ready meals (chilled & frozen) – often contain dairy
  • Baked goods – often contain egg
  • Snacks & confectionary – often contain milk powder
  • Spreads like mayonnaise and salad dressings – often contain egg
  • Vegetarian meat alternatives – often contain rehydrated egg whites

The categories above are commercial white spaces. Why? Because the vast majority of plant-based investment to date has been in alternative proteins and milks. The categories above only have small amounts of animal ingredients to replace, making them low-hanging fruit when demand for plant-based products is rising. Take baked goods, for instance, where the demand for vegan products is growing globally. In the UK, the proportion of new entrants into the baked goods category which were vegan rose from 7% in 2016 to 15% in 2020.6 Now is the perfect time for brands to proactively veganize their classic products across categories, and meet growing consumer demand for plant-based foods.

Global plant-based categories, in billions USD (2020)
Image source: ProVeg

Retailers are already racing to satisfy the growing consumer demand for plant-based products, with 23% of UK product launched in 2019 being vegan (an increase of 6% compared to the previous year).7 As Heather Mills of V-bites explains, “ultimately everybody wants to go to a one-stop shop”.8 This means that there’s fierce competition between retailers over the 40% of customers who are now seeking plant-based alternatives.

vegan pastries
Part of our mission is to make our readers hungry…Is it working yet? Keep staring.

By veganizing legacy products, brands can stay ahead of the growing demand for plant-based products and remain relevant to retailers. Need a hand? ProVeg’s V-Label team can help you to reach the widest possible consumer base. We’ve helped manufacturers and retailers across Europe to size their plant-based markets, identify commercial white spaces, develop product ranges, and launch them successfully. Check out our white paper ‘Plan for success: 7 key development strategies for plant-based products’ to learn how ProVeg helped Lidl expand their vegan range.

The challenges and solutions of veganisation


It’s essential that a veganised version of a product delivers on consumers’ number one priority: great taste. “As a food manufacturer, you may experience some fear of change. Will my cream puffs or cream cakes still be as tasty without [animal-based] ingredients?” says Rob van Erven, Managing Director of Donny Craves.

Van Erven knows this first-hand. In 2017, Donny Craves consulted with ProVeg to begin veganizing their popular cookie range. With our help, the company was able to eliminate butter and eggs from its recipes – while keeping their incredible flavors and textures.

“My advice,” continues van Erven, “Is to be open to the possibilities and experiment – just try. Replace all animal ingredients with plant-based ingredients, and see if you can make it as much of a guilty pleasure as you did before. Chances are the consumer will like it just as much.”

By our calculations, the switch made by Donny Craves will avoid the use of more than 20,000 eggs and over a hundred animal lives every year.9 At the same time, it boosted the brand’s bottom line by opening them up to the widest possible market – without compromising on quality.

Donny Craves food
ProVeg helped Donny Craves to replace the butter and eggs in their cookies with plant-based ingredients. The company’s range is now entirely vegan, and more popular than ever. We’d love to offer you the same support – email us at [email protected].
Image source: ©Donny Craves

Long ingredient lists

Replicating the texture and taste of animal-based products often results in a longer ingredient list. There are two schools of thought here. 

Some experts say we need to seize the bull by the horns.

We’ve been educated for years to think a label with fewer ingredients is healthier, but with plant-based products, there are often more ingredients to fortify the product with nutrients. We need to re-educate ourselves to see that as a positive thing.”

David Mulcahy

Food Innovation & Sustainability Director, Sodexo UK & Ireland10

On the other hand, consumer research data shows that long labels are off-putting to over two-thirds of current customers.11 As Carole Bingley of R&D-ingredient contractors RSSL explains, “Consumers see plant-based products as natural and they want them to be healthier. Seeing a long list – even if it’s ingredients they recognize – is concerning to them.” However, the extent to which consumer surveys are an accurate indicator of buying behavior isn’t straightforward. Consumers may be concerned by long labels, but it isn’t necessarily deterring purchases – after all, the best-selling meat alternatives to date rely on fairly long labels. The challenge for these labels will be to retain health-conscious consumers as clean-label alternatives enter the market.

Aside from label length, there’s a separate issue: some of the plant-based substitute ingredients sound weird and scary. For example, says Derek Sarno of Wicked Kitchen, “Methylcellulose is made from plants. There’s an education we need to do as consumers to understand better.”12 But is it realistic to expect consumers to put the effort in? History tells us friction of any kind is bad for converting consumers. (For more clean-label insights and R&D case studies, check out our white paper: ‘Plan for success: 7 key development strategies for plant-based products’).

“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”13 That phrase is often thrown around in food conversations these days but it’s far removed from author Michael Pollan’s original, more nuanced context, which actually advocates for modern, healthy foods.

As a result of consumer aversion to unfamiliar ingredients, many manufacturers are moving away from ingredients like methylcellulose. But this is where the snag kicks in. To achieve the same functionality often requires adding multiple new ingredients. For instance, potato protein or alginate can form stable gels, but they perform better in combination with added fiber to aid with product binding and succulence.

So what’s the solution?

family selecting fruit
Image source: pexels.com/ Greta Hoffman

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Michael Pollan

Author 14

That’s the Michael Pollan quote to focus on.

Multifunctional ingredients to the rescue

“We’re looking for multifunctional ingredients,” explains Bingley. “For instance, we’ve started working with a white chlorella flower which can be sustainably produced. Different grades have the potential for gelling and foam stability, while the color spectrum ranges from red to white. So one ingredient can provide color, binding, and protein.”

bouquet of flowers
Carole’s not suggesting you serve this for dinner.
Image source: pixabay.com/ Yuri_B / 132 images

Plant-protein expert MJ Kinney has a word of warning, though, saying functional ingredients “cannot be so unique that they ‘trap’ a manufacturer or brand into a single provider of that ingredient.” For a great example of diversifying your supply chain to mitigate risk, check out our case study on VBites and Domino’s Pizza in our paper: ‘Plan for success: 7 key development strategies for plant-based products

Case Study: veganizing Hema’s Apple Pie

Dutch retailer Hema wanted to veganize their popular apple pie. We helped them to identify the best egg-replacement options and to develop a new food concept. Oh, we also promoted the product launch via ProVeg’s 60,000 Dutch newsletter subscribers and large social-media following.

apple crumble pie
Hema’s classic apple pie can now be enjoyed by everyone. 15

The revised product was a huge hit. Hema became the first Dutch retailer to have a vegan apple pie available nationwide. The social-media campaign went viral and the pie sold out in its first weekend. On top of the great publicity for the retailer, the veganising  of this single product has resulted in annual savings of 350 tons of CO2 equivalent (that’s equivalent to driving a car around the equator 40 times!) as well as 30 soccer fields of land-use, while avoiding the consumption of 381 animals.16

Happily, after the success of the apple pie, Hema has continued to expand its vegan range. For advice on how to veganize your products, get in touch at [email protected].


Innovation requires cutting-edge technology, and brands should be prepared to continually invest in R&D. Established brands can either invest in upgrading their own production facilities, or outsource the critical R&D to firms with specialist equipment and skills.

The ingredients I use […] can be heavily influenced by the processing equipment. Access to that equipment, as well as the ability to identify what that equipment is, can be a total game-changer.”

MJ Kinney

Plant-protein expert at the non-profit X-Prize.

It’s important to note that using mixed-production equipment can drive costs up. For instance, Pringles recently reintroduced milk to some of their long-standing vegan crisp ranges in the UK, claiming that “by adding milk [we] are able to increase capacity, save costs and reduce the amount of food waste”.17 The costs Pringles are referring to are the increased cleaning costs that come with using the same processing facilities for plant-based and animal-based products, and the associated allergen-contamination risks. Pringles decided that the best solution was to introduce the allergen to more products, rather than remove it from others. Fortunately, other companies are taking a more holistic view to meeting their sustainability targets.

Instagram post about Pringles from Vegan Food UK
We’re hoping that Pringles spend a little less time crunching crisps and a little more time crunching their emissions numbers. Removing dairy across their range is a far more sustainable option – and would open them up to the widest possible consumer range.18

Plan for success: 7 key development strategies for plant-based products

We discuss capital expenditure and production facilities in more detail in our paper: ‘Plan for success: 7 key development strategies for plant-based products’. If your brand wants to connect with specialist ingredient technicians in your sector, get in touch with us. ProVeg has an expansive network of high-level industry experts across the value chain, and it would be our pleasure to introduce you. Email us at [email protected].

Case Study: veganizing Madame Cocos’ macaroons

Madame Cocos is a Dutch company that specializes in coconut macaroons – a coconut-based pastry sold at markets, festivals, cafes, and restaurants. Thanks to their collaboration with ProVeg, this sweet treat is now available in three plant-based flavors.

Madame-Cocos macrons
Madame Coco’s macaroons. Now deliciously plant-based. 19

ProVeg first collaborated with Madame Cocos in 2018. During a six-month period, three plant-based flavors were developed and perfected: natural, lemon curd, and dark chocolate and turmeric. “It’s a real challenge to veganize a product in which eggs make up a third of the ingredients,” explains Martine van Haperen, Product Developer at ProVeg. A variety of experiments were needed to determine the optimal formula, but Madame Cocos rose to the challenge like true macaroon mavericks.

We initially worked with Madame Cocos on their ready-to-eat macaroons and now, two years later, they’ve released a raw version of all three vegan flavors that consumers can bake at home. This shows how worthwhile it is for brands to invest in veganizing their classic ranges – the knowledge and expertise they gain in the process can quickly lead to new product lines – and more plant-based revenue.

madame cocos macrons
A vegan shopper spotted Madame Coco’s new range at Market Hall in Rotterdam and posted it on the popular vegan food-recommendation site Happy Cow. Madame Cocos now has a four-star rating among vegan and vegetarian consumers!20

If you want to take advantage of our R&D consulting expertise, get in touch at [email protected]. Or, if you want to send us a huge crate of delicious vegan macaroons, we’re also open to that!

ProVeg International has extensive R&D experience and a large database of plant-based ingredients. You can even take advantage of our taste-and-texture evaluation service. Send us a product sample and our team of more than 20 plant-based experts will complete a taste, texture, and appearance evaluation. Together, we’ve tested hundreds of products and provided comprehensive feedback – helping to successfully take plant-based products to market. Check out our white paper, ‘Plan for success: 7 key development strategies for plant-based products’ and discover how ProVeg’s tasting team helped Lidl to launch its own-label vegan range.

Why is dairy such a milkmare?

Conventional milk is a nightmarish ingredient for the environment. The dairy industry alone accounts for around 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions21 – that’s more than twice the emissions of the aviation industry.22 There’s cause for optimism – including the fermentation-based dairy products on the horizon, and the many amazing plant-based options already available – but urgent action is required. If your company wants to meet its emission-reduction targets and sustainability goals, eliminating dairy milk ingredients is vital. 

graph on global impact of milk
Switching to non-dairy alternatives can help your company to curb its emissions more quickly and meet its sustainability goals.23

Milk powder is in a lot of snacks and confectionery products, and it generates a lot of greenhouse gas emissions compared to plant-based alternatives.24

man covered in milk
Milkmare. An art-house collaboration between ProVeg and Martin Scorsese. (Assuming the director ever returns our calls…)
Image source: pixabay.com/ Engin_Akyurt

Plant-based milks generate significantly lower emissions and require less water and land than dairy milk. For instance, a liter of cow’s milk requires 627 liters of water to produce, while a liter of soy milk requires only 28 liters.25

graph of litres of water per litre of milk
Cow’s milk uses up to 22 times more water than plant-based milk. Yikes!
Image source: ProVeg

Case Study: veganizing Real Crisps and Cadbury Chocolates

Milk powder has historically been used in confectionery and crisps to add a creamy flavor. Removing this single ingredient can open products up to a wider market. Here are two companies that did just that – without compromising on taste or performance.

Image of milk and almonds/grains
Plant milk is one of the most popular plant-based categories worldwide.
Image Source: shutterstock.com/ Oko Laa

Cadbury Chocolates

Cadbury commissioned a leading product developer to help identify a suitable replacement for dairy milk in its chocolate range. They found that almond paste provided a great balance of flavor and functionality, “retaining the creamy taste you expect from Cadbury”.26

Their two plant-based products launched across UK retailers in November 2021 – to great acclaim from consumers. They join the growing number of brands releasing vegan versions of their classic products.

chocolate bars
Cadbury proves that almond powder can replace milk – while Lindt has embraced the popularity of oat milk. 27

Real Crisps

Real Crisps is a premium Welsh crisp brand sold in Starbucks and other food-service and retail locations around the UK. In 2021, Real Crisps updated the ingredients across all of their products, making an effort to increase the number of 100% plant-based products in the process.

We have always been 100% vegetarian and, going forward, we will have six out of nine recipes without milk, and therefore vegan.”

Clare Scallon

Marketing Manager at Real Crisps

By removing dairy without compromising on quality, Real Crisps are future-proofing their product – thus ensuring that they stay ahead of the consumer shift towards plant-based products. At the same time, they’re opening themselves up to the widest possible market. That’s a classic win-win!

Real crisps
Two-thirds of Real Crisps’ products are now dairy-free. Image source: ©Real Hand Cooked Crisps

ProVeg can help your brand to veganize its products – without compromising on taste or quality. Read on to find out how we helped bring egg-free mayo to food lovers across the Netherlands.

Egg-stremely replaceable

Animal eggs are energy intensive and high in cholesterol. In fact, they use up to 95% more water than plant-based alternatives.28By comparison, egg alternatives have zero cholesterol, and are typically low in fat. By replacing animal eggs, you can lower your production costs, increase health benefits, and support your emission-reduction targets.

There are many existing plant-based products that can be used to replace eggs in home baking. For instance: 

  • Applesauce (1/4 cup = 1 large egg)
  • Mashed banana (1/4 cup = 1 large egg)
  • Water, oil, and baking powder (2 tablespoons water + 2 teaspoons baking powder + 1 teaspoon vegetable oil = 1 large egg)
  • Carbonated water (1/4 cup = 1 large egg)

At an industrial scale, however, you need to be more targeted: what functionality are you trying to replace? There may often be a trade-off between the nutrients, protein, or functionality of any given replacement ingredient, compared to the original.

“Before beginning a food-product development project, I have clients fill out a product brief that outlines all parameters of what that product is,” says MJ Kinney, plant-based expert at X-Prize. “Major components include serving-size ranges, desired nutrition facts per serving, marketing claims related to the product, […] certifications (organic, non-GMO, conventional), and a list of ingredients (as well as allergens) it can and cannot contain. […] It is a strong and essential starting point to effectively and efficiently create food products.”

By being clear on what function egg currently plays in your product, you can laser-focus your search for an alternative based on function. (Psst…We have a database that lists plant-based ingredients by function. Contact [email protected] to start your search).

meme of baby chick
It’s a valid question, no?
Image source: ProVeg

Case Study: Egg-free mayo for fast-food chains

ProVeg undertook market research and demand visualization for egg-free mayonnaise in the Netherlands. Armed with enticing market data, and with cupid’s bow in-hand, we set off to play matchmaker. 

We paired Dutch food manufacturer Remia with two national fast-food chains: Smullers and Manneken Pis. Sparks flew, and, soon after, their great-tasting egg-free mayo landed on piles of piping-hot fries nationwide.

Thanks to this collaboration with ProVeg, plant-based mayo is now available across both restaurant chains, providing delicious and sustainable condiments for all customers. Consumers are now able to enjoy a traditional favorite but with better health benefits and reduced environmental impact. The launch of the vegan mayo received much publicity, helping the brands to broaden their consumer bases and advance their reputation as sustainability-conscious companies.

Traditional snack, made deliciously vegan.

Whether you’re looking to reformulate your existing products in order to offer more clean-label or plant-based options, or you’re looking to launch a brand new product, ProVeg has you covered. Get in touch at [email protected].

ProVeg Tips

What to do once you’ve veganised your product

Talk to us! The V-Label, which ProVeg administers in Germany, is an internationally recognized seal for labeling vegan and vegetarian products. Established in Switzerland in 1996, V-Label is the go-to guide for European consumers. Globally, more than 40,000 products from more than 3,500 license holders now carry the V-Label, which is registered in 27 countries. ProVeg and its partners work across more than 30 countries, making us uniquely positioned to support your products, both locally and internationally. Drop us a line at [email protected] to find out how V-Label can support your new plant-based range.


Veganizing your existing product range can help your brand to stay relevant to the growing flexitarian market, reduce allergens, extend shelf life, offer new health benefits, and meet your sustainability targets.

When veganizing, you should aim for multi-functional ingredients, short label lists, and premium taste and texture. Avoid mixed processing facilities where possible in order to avoid allergen risks, and take advantage of tasting and feedback services to ensure you’re hitting the mark. By prioritizing products that only have one or two animal ingredients, you can make huge progress quickly (these are usually ready meals, baked goods, snacks, and confectionery items).

Whether you’re looking to reformulate your existing products in order to offer more clean-label or plant-based options or you’re looking to launch a brand new product, ProVeg has you covered. ProVeg has extensive knowledge of plant-based ingredient offerings in Europe, across multiple product categories. We conduct tailored analyzes and recommend key suppliers for your business, depending on your unique needs and challenges. Let’s talk – drop us a line at [email protected]


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  16. Based on sales from March 2019-December 2019.
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