Move on Dry January, enter Veganuary. If you haven’t heard,
around 150,000 people in the UK signed up to Veganuary and pledged to go vegan
(no meat, fish, eggs or dairy) for January. Plant-based food enjoyed huge
growth last year and it’s set to be the biggest trend of 2018.
Compassion for animals has long been a reason to go vegan
but there are other political and environmental reasons which have persuaded a
new wave of millennials in particular. Eye-opening documentaries and media
coverage has exposed the effect of the meat and dairy industry on the
environment and global resources. There’s an argument that going vegan is a much
more sustainable way to live. In addition, social media and a wealth of chefs
and food bloggers have helped promote veganism as a desirable lifestyle and
position it as the future, not just a fad.
For a long time, vegans have pulled the short straw when it comes to eating out. However food retailers have been listening and they’ve responded. Here’s a few examples of what’s happening in the sector now veganism is in the spotlight….
Vegan menus hit the high street…
Vegans have rejoiced at being able to visit Pizza Express, Zizzi’s and Pizza Hut and finally order a pizza with vegan cheese. Some forward-thinking pub brands such as Wetherspoon’s and Harvester have made a special effort to include new vegan dishes clearly labelled on their menus. Despite being a chicken restaurant, Nando’s has two different types of vegan ‘patties’ (just skip the mayo) and it was announced in October that McDonalds is trialling a vegan burger.
Supermarkets up their green game…
Supermarkets have been expanding their vegan ranges to meet demand. Tesco just added eighteen meals to its own plant-based range ‘Wicked Kitchen’ after employing a Director of plant-based innovation. Marks & Spencer’s festive offering contained more vegetarian mains than meat, although they were recently mocked by shoppers for charging £2.50 for two sliced ‘cauliflower steaks’ – now off the shelves after admitting ‘we don’t always get it right…’
Street food takes on a vegan vibe…
On the back of the street food trend, vegan food markets are now big news, especially in London. My local vegan food market in Hackney has seen such high demand that it’s now weekly, with stalls often selling out within a few hours. Events such as “Vegan Nights” (a night market of plant-based traders) are hugely popular with foodie Millennials. And it’s not just the green healthy stuff, traders such as Temple of Seitan and Biff’s Jack Shack produce mock meat creations (made of seitan or jack-fruit) that could be mistaken for the real thing – think fried chicken, burgers and roast chicken subs…
For operators, it can be a challenge to decide what kind of
vegan dishes are right for the menu. Although many vegans follow a healthier,
less processed ‘plant-based’ diet, many are less health-conscious and still
want to indulge when eating out. It’s
crucial to understand the fit with your proposition and preferences amongst
your customers. But one thing’s for certain – vegan food is here to stay.