Should Your Restaurant Be Catering More for Vegans?

Veganism has enjoyed a rapid change over the last few years, thanks to an increase in contributing concerns: the environment, for one, as well as our overall health. In fact, veganism has become popular enough to be deemed a trend, but is it here to stay?

Not so long ago, going vegan was seen as an extreme choice to give up tasty food: no chocolate? No bacon? No cheese? How could anyone give up such tasty treats? Well, the simple answer now is, vegans don't give these things up; they simply replace them with vegan-alternatives that taste just as good.

But do they taste good enough for the hospitality industry to pick up? They are certainly delicious enough for the UK household, with plant-based food sales up 1,500 percent between 2016 and 2017.

Data from the Vegan Society shows that:

  • 56 percent of adults in the UK practice vegan buying behaviors
  • 19 percent have cut down on buying meat and are checking cosmetics and toiletries for animal-testing
  • 13 percent actively choose meat-free or dairy-free meals when eating out
  • 51 percent are happy to see vegan food in shops and restaurants

It's not just vegans picking up the plant-based alternatives then — with many people more health-conscious and eco-aware than ever, plenty  are choosing vegan options for a few meals a week. Perhaps because of this, the mindset toward vegans has drastically improved, with 43 percent of people saying they respected vegans for their lifestyle.

It's nice to think that the world's concern for the environment is a driving factor behind people's food choices, but there's other potential reasons for the rise in vegan popularity. Looking at the results of 2018’s Veganuary, a movement that challenges people to sign up for a month of vegan eating, the top reason for people signing up was animal rights concerns (43 percent). This was followed by 39 percent of people who signed up for health reasons, and 10 percent who said it was for environmental reasons.

Admittedly, an element of vanity might also be a factor in veganism's resurgence, as the Independent noted a correlation between Google searches for the word 'vegan' and searched for the hugely-popular social media platform, 'Instagram'.  In a world where we love to take photos of our meals and share them on social media, it’s not difficult to believe that Instagram has helped circulate numerous brightly-coloured vegan dishes to help improve its previously ill-held reputation of being nothing but leaves.

Vegan meals are no longer the mocked rabbit-food fare they used to be; now, they're colourful explosions of reds, green, blues, and more, perfect for an Instagram post. Vegan Food & Living looked through the vegan food trends of 2018:

  • Veggie chips, such as parsnip chips and sweet potato chips, make for a healthier option than normal potato.
  • Edible flowers, to make your meal Instagram-worthy.
  • Vegan desserts, bringing back ice-cream and cakes in vegan-friendly ways. Ben and Jerry’s have released three delicious vegan-friendly ice creams: Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Chunky Monkey, and Peanut Butter and Cookies are all sure to be a hit with vegans and non-vegans alike.
  • Fermented foods, while they might not conjure the most delicious image to mind, are coming into food trends in a big way. Think colourful kimchi and nutty-flavoured tempeh.

It seems that the next step is for more to-go options for vegans – think supermarket meal deals and the like. A recent survey found that 91 percent of vegans are having a tough time finding to-go meal options. The market is certainly there, and restaurants and supermarkets are slowly picking up on the potential gains to be made by catering to veganism.

Consumers are viewing vegan options as a go-to healthy option too. A new study was brought to the public eye by The Guardian, outlining that the “five-a-day” notion for fruit and vegetable consumption is, sadly, not entirely accurate. In fact, the study from the Imperial College London advises 10-a-day. The now-recommended 800g of fruit and vegetable daily would help reduce heart disease, strokes and premature deaths. Picking up a few vegan meals throughout the week, or switching to a vegan diet entirely, would certainly help hit this healthy target.

Is veganism the next step for catering businesses? You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how far vegan cooking has come, and if nothing else, you’ll reap environmental and health benefits.

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