THE York couple who founded Veganuary say they are “overwhelmed” by its success which has led to half a million people trying out a vegan diet – and they revealed they used all their life savings to make it work.

Jane Land and Matthew Glover dreamt up the idea over a bottle of wine at their Fishergate home back in 2014.

The idea was to launch the Veganuary website to encourage people to give up all animal products every January to highlight animal welfare and environmental issues.

The couple, who now live in Copmanthorpe, say they used all their life savings in the venture, which has been a huge success. Jane said: “Veganuary has been life-changing. I left teaching in 2014 to work full time on the campaign. Matthew and I used our savings to build the organisation in the early days. It was tough and in 2015 we did run out of money and lived with Matthew’s mum for a year to help keep things going. It’s not a nine-to-five job. When you witness the suffering of animals and realise the damage we’re inflicting on our planet, it’s difficult to take a break from that. We didn’t have a proper holiday for years and even during our honeymoon we gave a presentation at a conference about Veganuary!”

In the first year, some 3,300 took part in Veganuary. To date, more than 500,000 people around the world have followed Veganuary, which has charitable status, while the number of vegans in the UK has quadrupled over the same time to 600,000 today.

Veganuary-themed menus, food and promotions are now available in leading supermarkets, bars and restaurants and last week Greggs launched a vegan sausage roll.

Jane said: “It’s really heartwarming and overwhelming to see something like this take off. It’s great when you walk into a mainstream supermarket and see your branding in the food aisle.” The couple said their reasons for giving up meat products - like most vegans - was animal welfare grounds.

They added they were continuing to work with leading food producers to widen the culinary choice for vegans.

Jane said: “We want to work with them to create food people want to eat. Contrary to what people might think, vegans don’t live off hummus and falafel! We want to eat BLTs, cheese and pickle sandwiches – everything meat-eaters eat, but just a vegan version of them.”

In the meantime, they are working on a new publicity campaign which will be unveiled next month.

Jane said she expected more people to switch to a vegan diet. “The number of vegans has quadrupled in four years. It is not a trend. It’s a cultural shift. For environmental reasons we have to change what we eat and veganism can play a massive part in that.”