This is a really good question and I think this concept needs to be clarified. At Nutracity our online vegan nutrition store has very fair prices and we always price our products in line with the current market value. However, as with non-vegan food, prices can vary from product to product and there can be a range of products with different prices in the same category. This just depends on other factors too.
For example, if you look at Nutracity’s vegan products UK line, you can see that different vegan products in the same category will have varying prices. For instance, Equal Exchange Raw Cane Sugar - Unrefined (500g) is £2.55 but Coconut Merchant Organic Coconut Sugar (250g) is £2.99. So half the amount of coconut sugar is more expensive than its cane sugar counterpart. Even though both products are vegan, this is due to the fact that there is less demand for coconut sugar, so it is not produced in as large quantities, coconut sugar is also harder to extract and coconuts are more expensive than sugar cane.
If you compare vegan products with their non-vegan counter parts side by side you will find that vegan products do tend to be more expensive. If you were to look at in interesting article covering this topic at HarryWallop.co.uk you can see that on average vegan products were 57.5% more expensive than their non-vegan alternatives.1 The good news is, that due to the exponential increase in demand for vegan products, more supermarkets and retailers are selling more plant-based products which has led to a vegan diet becoming more affordable as well as giving vegans a greater choice with regards to different products. In a recent poll by the University of Bath, expense was named alongside taste and convenience as the key reasons why meat-eaters do not switch to veganism.
Another important aspect in this perception that vegan food is very expensive are social media influencers. As mentioned by the The Vegan Society, some vegan celebrities and social media influencers post photos of meals that “contain some more costly, premium ingredients, these influencers could give the impression that veganism is not an everyday diet for the average person”. They then go further to give an example of an image of a bowl filled with colourful foodstuffs but the cost of the individual ingredients such as the fruit, vegetables, beans, seeds, dressings etc can all add up to an expensive sum of money.
Another key aspect as mentioned by The Vegan Society, is cookbooks and recipes that offer a wide range of ingredients and vegans trying to follow them word for word. So the cost of following one of these recipes can be quite expensive especially if you only use a small amount of a particular ingredient and then do not use it again for a long time as it is not in any other recipes, this can then lead to an expensive meal and future waste.2 However, one can argue that this could be the same issue with any other diet as well, especially when first trying to follow a new diet, there is always going to be expensive options and cheaper options, the key is try to find the right balance within your own budget.
Another important consideration is that as recommended by the NHS, you could be missing out on essential nutrients and therefore might need to take certain vitamins and supplements. The NHS recommends that there is a “need to make sure they get enough iron and vitamin B12, and vegans enough calcium, iron and vitamin B12. Women are thought to be at particular risk of iron deficiency, including those on a vegetarian or vegan diet”.3 Therefore, there may be an added expense of taking vitamins and supplements that you may not have taken otherwise. Lets take a look at some of these vitamins and supplements from www.nutracity.co.uk and see how they are value for money:
The first product is Solgar Calcium Magnesium Plus Zinc 100 Tablets for £9.99 This is a very high quality product from a very reputable brand that is also vegan. The recommended dosage is three tablets a day, therefore you can ingest roughly 33 days worth for £9.99 This works out to roughly 30 pence per day which is actually very cheap when you compare it to other food items. For comparison purposes, a typical portion of chips in London is about £1.50 at the moment, so supplementing with calcium, magnesium and zinc is actually “cheaper than chips” as we would say in the UK. For roughly 30 pence a day these supplements help to support healthy bones and muscles, essential to adults of all ages. Also supports healthy musculoskeletal structure and nervous systems. Calcium contributes to normal muscle function, maintenance of normal bones and teeth, magnesium contributes to normal muscle function and also maintenance of normal bones and teeth as well as protection of cells from oxidative stress. Zinc contributes to normal metabolism of vitamin A, maintenance of normal bones and protection of cells from oxidative stress.
Since the NHS also recommends vitamin B12 lets look at another popular high quality product from Solgar. In Nutracity’s UK product line you can find Solgar Vitamin B12 1000mcg Sublingual - 100 Chewable Nuggets for £15.50 The dosage is one nugget daily, therefore this is a 100 day supply that works out to roughly 16 pence per day. This product is suitable for a vegan diet and supports energy metabolism and contributes to energy-yielding metabolism, normal functioning of the nervous system, normal homocysteine metabolism, normal psychological function, normal red blood cell formation, normal function of the immune system and the process of cell division. So receiving all these benefits for 16 pence per day could be argued that actually this is very good value for money.
So to conclude, it could be argued that the expense of a vegan diet can be determined by perspective, but just like any other diet, there are always cheaper and more expensive options.