Veganism has made quite an impact on restaurants in the past few years, but how far-reaching are the effects truly?
Every few years there comes a minor revolution which impacts the restaurant industry in ways that force food outlets to make changes and adapt in a bid to stay relevant. The latest of these? The vegan revolution. In the surprisingly familiar way that halal meat has found its way into most outlets in the UK due to demand, the constant rise in the number of vegans has restaurants attempting to continuously revise their plans according to customers.
Interest in veganism has especially boomed in the last years. According to The Vegan Society data, in 2014 there were 150,000 vegans in the UK and that figure has risen by 400 per cent since then, rising up to 600,000 across the country.
Another survey by comparethemarket.com says that there are an estimated 3.5 million vegans in the UK. This would mean that seven per cent of the UK’s population is vegan.
“Seven per cent sounds about accurate to me when in comparison with figures coming out of other countries,” explained Jodi Monelle, CEO and Founder of ‘Live Kindly’, a vegan-friendly magazine followed by thousands worldwide. “It’s also important to be aware, however, that the data from comparethemarket.com on British vegans was a sample taken from just 2,000 participants.”
There are, at least, four times as many vegans as there were four years ago, but what is the reason behind this rapid growth? “I would identify the major factors in this growing movement as a rising consciousness on ethical topics and concerns over climate crisis,” said Monelle. “Information is so much more accessible now and coincides heavily with consumers’ growing demand for company transparency.”
According to data from Live Kindly, 52 per cent of British citizens say they are already eating vegan food or are interested in trying it out in the future and Monelle thinks social media has a huge role to play in the increasing appeal.
She stated: “Many celebrities have openly claimed they are vegan and if we were to quickly search ‘#vegan’ on Instagram, we would find out there are over 70 million posts targeted as ‘vegan’.
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“What better way to debunk myths on a ‘bland,’ ‘boring’ vegan diet than by posting beautiful, bright imagery of your dinner? It’s much more visually appealing than a lump of flesh, that’s for sure.”
Furthermore, Google Trends statistics reveal that interest in the search term ‘vegan’ has shown a colossal increase over the period of last six years. This rising interest has translated into more vegan items in existing food outlets as well as the inception of numerous completely vegan restaurants in London.
After viewing footage of a slaughterhouse and researching the dairy industry, Catherine Salway adopted a plant-based diet and later launched a vegan restaurant called Redemption Bar.
“Veganism is a growing market. I want to make people aware of the benefits of this diet and show them they’re not missing out on anything by being vegan,” she said. She uses meat-inspired dishes to attract customers. Salway believes these foods help people transition away from their habits of eating animal products.
Redemption’s food is sourced locally, cruelty free to animals and encompasses a diverse menu, that keeps on changing. Their dishes come to a reasonable £8.00-£15.00 without compromising on taste.
Catherine believes that the industry is growing fast and people are interested in eating more vegan food, driven by concerns over the sustainability of animal products or personal health.
“So many people are trying to be vegan,” she said. “So many people want to go out and eat, and it’s tough to find options. Hopefully we can make it easier, and push people to go for vegan meals or cut back on meat, and that makes all the difference.”
Ines de Braganca, a 22-year-old Portuguese vegan based in London, believes that the “food industry is changing” but people still struggle to “accept” this plant-based diet.
Disha Gupta, an employee at Subway, revealed that rise of veganism has yet to drastically affect the prominent food chain. “Yes, we’ve had some customers who specifically wanted something vegan. However, in the two months that I have worked at Subway, I witnessed only two to three customers asking for vegan dishes,” she said.
She also thinks that introducing vegan dishes isn’t on top of Subway’s priority list at the moment. Disha stated: “As far as I know, because the demand for a vegan item isn’t as high, Subway isn’t planning on adding it on the menu anytime soon.”
Nevertheless, the rise in the number of vegan and vegetarian customers has had subtle effects in other aspects of Subway. “The only thing that we are very strict about is to never touch the vegetarian and meat items while serving the customers with the same gloves.”
Keeping in mind Disha’s statement that veganism is yet to significantly affect the working of Subway, we decided to scour other major food franchises in search of availability of food items for vegans.
Even though the major food franchises have not quite been influenced in the same way as plenty of other restaurants in London, the rising interest in veganism does not show signs of slowing down anytime soon. Only time will tell if there’s any limit to this revolution.
(Interviews: Marta and Matilde; infographics, design and pictures: Prabal; writing and sub-editing: Anweshak)