With Veganuary in full swing, it looks like this year it’s easier than ever to try out a plant-based regime. Gone are the days of vegetables being associated with an “eat your greens” obligation! Today, British retailers and foodservice operators are coming up with delicious ways to cook vegetables that diners feel good about eating.
Indeed, they risk missing out on sales if they are not catering for the demand for vegetable-led dishes, driven by conscious consumers who have either adopted a full-time vegan lifestyle or those who enjoy eating plant-based dishes from time to time. Vegan options also suit overall healthy eating trends, attract those with dairy and egg intolerances, and appease religious concerns – making them appealing to a wide variety of diners.
Millennials are driving the boom in flexitarianism – eating more vegetables and less meat – and foodie-ism – expanding their food knowledge and experimenting with new cuisines.What’s more, with ideas around sustainable food systems and healthy food factors becoming entrenched into British lifestyles, it has become more important for operators to innovate around wholesome ingredients, prepared and served in a way that is appealing to this group of food-conscious diners.
Foodservice operators are vegan trailblazers
Veganism has evolved, with great taste and texture being prerequisites, and foodservice operators are at the forefront of the charge. There has been some interesting innovation in restaurant/takeaway pizza over the last few years. Most larger mainstream pizza outlets now have some type of vegan offering, whether it is Pizza Hut offering Violife’s dairy free cheese alternative for a £1 supplement at the start of 2018 or Domino’s testing its first ever vegan pizza in the UK in September 2018. While London-based pizza chain Pizza GoGo has partnered with Quorn to offer a new vegetarian pizza range (with hints that vegan cheese will follow soon).
Quick-service and casual dining restaurants have introduced high-protein vegetable ingredients such as chickpeas and lentils as a healthy alternative to meat proteins.Examples include lentil ragu by Zizzi, avocado and chipotle chickpeas hot wrap by Veggie Pret and ‘rainbow mezze salad’ with beetroot, green lentil, and hummus by Leon.
Vegan and vegetarian diets represent opportunities for traditionally meat-centred operators, such as burger bars and, chicken shops to get creative by experimenting with vegan dishes that taste good and are well-presented. A notable example is Dirty Bones, the gourmet burger chain, which launched The Vegan Mac Daddy in June 2018 at selected restaurants in London. The burger features plant-based Moving Mountains’ B12 patty, which is made with oyster mushrooms, pea protein, potato protein, wheat and soy proteins, beetroot juice, coconut oil, and vitamin B12. Toppings include vegan mac and cashew ‘cheese’, mushroom, and espresso BBQ sauce. Meanwhile, Temple of Seitan, the London-based fast food chain, uses seitan to create mock “meat”, including deep-fried mock chicken wings.
And to give diners the full experience, operators are also innovating around vegan desserts. For example, Tredwells, the fine dining restaurant by Marcus Wareing, features vegan desserts such as marinated pineapple, passion fruit, coconut and vegan meringue made from aquafaba (chickpea water). Meanwhile, Wagamama introduced its new vegan dish, mango and matcha millefeuille dessert, as part of its full vegan menu launched in September 2017.
Supermarkets are catching up
Retailers have been quick to move into this space, forging partnerships with respected vegan advocates to develop their own versions of flavour-forward vegan propositions such as Tesco’s Wicked Kitchen range. The latest supermarket to join the party is M&S, which just launched Plant Kitchen, a new dairy and meat-free line of ‘dirty’ comfort food including cauliflower popcorn with a spicy buffalo dip. Overall, Mintel research revealed that in 2018, the UK was the nation with the highest number of new vegan food products launched.
Meat alternatives to watch
Seitan: A very flexible ingredient that can be shaped to look and taste like real meat, eg fried foods like fish and chips and chicken.
Tempeh: A fermented soybean cake from Indonesia that can be used as a halloumi-substitute.
Ackee: A fruit native to West Africa with a yellowish flesh akin to the appearance and consistency of scrambled eggs.
Jackfruit: Its natural flesh looks like pulled pork and its neutral sweet flavour takes on BBQ sauces very well, making it a great BBQ pulled pork substitute.
Vegetable juice pulp: Burger patties made with a combination of fruit and vegetable juice pulp and dyed to a beef pink with sugar beet pulp.
Beyond Burger uses beet juice to make the burger ‘bleed’
Senior Foodservice Analyst Trish Caddy writes a range of UK foodservice reports and is often called upon UK media outlets to comment on trends shaping the eating-out market.
As a Global Food & Drinks Analyst, Ayisha Koyenikan provides insights to clients in Europe and around the world in the prepared meals and bakery sectors.