As we head into the second week of World Vegan Month, we look at the exponential rise in this lifestyle choice and why savvy restaurant owners need to understand the business benefits of nurturing this popular way of eating.
Veganism has become more than just a hot culinary trend; it's now a global movement. In fact, according to a survey by finder.com, the number of vegans in the UK alone sky-rocketed by 40% in 2020. Its findings showed that approximately 1.1 million people followed a plant-based diet at the beginning of 2020; however, this figure is now closer to 1.5 million people - equivalent to three per cent of the population.
So, what's prompting this rise? According to Mintel analysts, young women are driving the growth, but there's a multitude of reasons behind the sharp increase, including:
· People are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of the food chain
· More consumers are conscious of animal welfare in food production.
· People believe veganism is better for their health and well-being.
· Some people are using the diet as a tool for weight management.
· There are concerns over the use of antibiotics in livestock farming.
· And, some people just prefer the taste of animal product substitutes.
Despite the rise of veganism, many restaurateurs remain hesitant about adding vegan options to their menus. Some reasons include a perceived lack of demand, high cost, and the additional hassle in preparing and cooking these items separately. However, just as the number of reasons behind adopting this lifestyle is many and varied, so are the reasons that hospitality businesses should consider adding plant-based meals to their menus.
Vickie Halliwell, Beacon Food & Beverages Buyer and a long-term vegan explains, '89% of meat-free dishes are eaten by non-vegetarians. Therefore, even if your menus are traditionally geared towards committed carnivores, you shouldn't underestimate the importance of having a high-quality and varied plant-based offering.
Customers will also perceive you as a more inclusive restaurant when you offer a diversity of food options. As a result, you'll appeal to a broader market: vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, as well as environmentally and health-conscious consumers too. That's not to mention those who are simply more adventurous diners and are looking for an unusual and innovative dish that they've never tried before."
Expanding into a new customer base could also increase sales and profitability, particularly as an inclusive menu will make you more appealing for group bookings. In addition, adding breadth to your menus will allow you to retain existing customers whose preferences may change over time due to external factors, e.g. health or environmental concerns. For example, suppose a loyal and regular customer suddenly finds that you no longer cater for their taste. In that case, they will have no other option but to explore alternative eateries that do – even if they have been a long-term frequenter of your establishment.
However, it's vital that you don't promote yourself as vegan-friendly when an uninspiring garden salad or a basic tomato-based pasta dish is the only appropriate menu option you offer. Instead, think of bold flavours, perhaps seeking inspiration from international cuisines such as Indian or Taiwanese, where a meat-free lifestyle is popular and fragrant spices add flavour and heat to legumes or vegetables.
If cross-contamination is a potential worry, there is also a great variety of ready-prepared meals available that offer convenience, as well as great taste. Think comforting 'dirty vegan' dishes, such as cauliflower buffalo wings, 'seitan' steaks, or mushroom burgers, which will appeal to those who don't want to give up their fast food just because they're avoiding animal products.
If you're still wary, Beacon has numerous supply partners that can help if you need support, from specialist distributors to leading food wholesalers. Check out some of our key recommendations below and get in touch via Live Chat if you'd like an account opening with any of them.
Vegetarian Express are the UK's premier specialist vegetarian and vegan food distributor within the foodservice sector. They have extensive knowledge of their specialist products, enabling them to offer detailed nutrition and menu planning advice.
They've been supporting chefs with specialist foods, cutting edge innovation, and unique expertise since 1987 to help businesses create healthy, innovative and exciting plant-based menus that will wow their customers. They're 'foodies' who love the adventure of delivering new tastes to dishes with the most vibrant and tasty ingredients you can find. And they do it in a way that's better for everyone, the planet and your business.
Bidfood's own brand, V Kitchen, is a fabulous collection of vegan and plant-based flavourful products to help you deliver vegan-friendly menu options to your customers.
Whether people are taking on a completely vegan diet or simply actively trying to make an effort to eat more sustainably with a reduced meat intake, the interest in vegan options in foodservice is undoubtedly increasing. And Bidfood wants to help its customers meet that consumer need.
So, if you are looking for the right ingredients to make delicious scratch-cook recipes or something ready-to-cook to help you save time, they've got the range for you.
Brakes have a range of wholesale vegan prepared meals to save you time in the kitchen, and their selection of meat-free alternatives, encompass various reputable brands such as Oumph, Quorn and The Meatless Farm Co.
While preparing dishes from scratch may be the ideal choice, it might not always be possible for businesses to dedicate their time to this when dealing with hundreds, if not thousands of customers. That's why they have a wide range of vegan ready-prepared meals that can be served alone or accompanied by other fabulous meat-free alternatives.
Destiny Foods is one of the UK's largest manufacturers and distributors of frozen desserts and specialist patisserie, supplying leading UK groups and independent customers across the hotel, restaurant, pub, travel and leisure sectors. Their vegan desserts are one of their proudest achievements and include everything from cheesecakes to tarts, along with a unique afternoon tea offering.
They start with the basic philosophy that desserts should be a pleasure for all – so their chefs make sure all of their vegan products pack the same incredible flavours and perfect textures as traditional desserts, simply without the eggs and dairy. Excite customers new and old without compromising on taste. Created flavour-first and with all dessert lovers in mind – you won't believe they're vegan!