Q+A with Veganuary's Wendy Matthews

Q+A with Veganuary's Wendy Matthews

Tell us about yourself! Who are you and what is your role on the Veganuary team?

I am Wendy Matthews, and I am Veganuary’s US Director. I’ve overseen the campaign in the US since Veganuary launched here in January 2020, following the success of the campaign in the UK where it’s been running since 2014. I am passionate about creating resources that help people live in alignment with their values, and at the same time supporting businesses in shifting towards plant-based to meet the rise in consumer consciousness.

What is the mission and purpose of Veganuary?

Veganuary is a non-profit organization that encourages people worldwide to try vegan for January and beyond. During the 2021 campaign, more than 500,000 people took our pledge to try a vegan diet, while more than 825 new vegan products and menu options were launched in our key campaign countries. Throughout the year, Veganuary encourages and supports people and businesses alike to move to a plant-based diet as a way of protecting the environment, preventing animal suffering, and improving the health of millions of people.

Why does Veganuary happen every January?

January is the perfect time to try vegan. It’s a time when people make new year’s resolutions to improve their lives, and often their health. It’s a contained period of time so it feels manageable when starting out, but it will allow participants to find out more about the impact their food choices have, discover delicious vegan foods and recipes, and realize how surprisingly easy it really is to cut out animal products. A new survey conducted by YouGov indicated that nearly one-third (32%) of Americans plan to eat more plant-based/vegan foods in the new year!

Who participates in Veganuary? 

Nearly three-quarters of participants - 74% - were still eating meat and/or fish when they signed-up to take part in Veganuary last year. Our hope is that trying vegan for a month will inspire participants to want to stay vegan or lessen their intake of animal products throughout the rest of the year. And, it’s working! Our 2021 six-month survey showed that 82% of those participants who were not vegan when they signed up have maintained a dramatic reduction in their animal product consumption.

Debunk a common myth for us! What do you think people get wrong about veganism and plant-based eating?

I think there’s a common concern that veganism is expensive. While it’s true that some vegan products come at a premium, it is very possible to eat low-budget on a plant-based diet. A recent Kantar study commissioned by Veganuary showed that the average plant-based meal cooked at home cost 40% less than the average meat or fish-based meal. Veganuary even offers a budget meal plan where each meal comes in at under $1.40 per serving.

Let's talk about protein. How do vegan and plant-based eaters ensure they are eating enough to stay nourished and energized?

We hear this question a lot and I appreciate that a lot of people have concerns about protein when it comes to eating plant-based. There is a common misconception that we need meat to get enough protein, but it’s simply not true. There may be a lot of protein in meat, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist anywhere else. It does! And vegans simply do what elephants, bison and rhinos do. We go straight to the source – plants.

That’s one reason why registering with Veganuary is so important, as we can provide the best nutritional advice to help keep you feeling your best.

What resources does Veganuary offer that can help inspire more vegan meals for beginners? 

When you sign-up for Veganuary, you get everything you need to make eating vegan fun and easy, including a downloadable celebrity cookbook, meal plans, recipes, nutrition trackers, and our best tips and advice. You also get access to a private Facebook group where you can share triumphs and challenges with other participants. Plus, you’ll get exclusive special offers and discounts. And best of all, it’s completely free!

People always focus on what vegans do NOT eat. What are some of your favorite flavorful foods that are a part of a vegan diet?

During the recent holiday season, this meant extra-decadent vegan treats! Just this evening I had a dish of oat milk-based coffee ice cream with vegan chocolate sauce and nuts. I can tell you for sure I did not feel deprived. Yum! 

I also want to celebrate how amazing vegan cheeses have gotten over the past decade. I’ve been vegan for 11 years and the way the category has grown is really remarkable. I can now put together a vegan cheese platter that gets devoured at family holidays (often by unsuspecting folks who don’t even realize it’s non-dairy!).

The mandatory follow-up to that last question is to ask you what your favorite vegan comfort meal is! (If you have a recipe, please share!)

I LOVE to cook, but now that Veganuary is in full swing I am leaning more towards quick and nourishing. A favorite lately has been putting together a vegan charcuterie plate for dinner – usually some vegan cheese and crackers, olives, hummus, some fruit, and a cut up veggie sausage with a good Dijon for dipping. Simple and satisfying.

Where can our online friends learn more about signing up for Veganuary to become more involved in the movement?

To sign up to join us for Veganuary 2022, visit https://veganuary.com/en-us/try-vegan/. There are no vegan-police, and no judgement. We’re here to support you and hope you’ll come along for the journey!