Veganuary. You’d be doing well to not have heard of it. This year more people than ever have signed up to try a vegan lifestyle throughout January, with numbers looking to top 400,000 by the time it’s all wrapped up1. It’s estimated now that between 1 and 3% of the UK population identify themselves as Vegan, but with February looming fast, is it time to reduce the vegan options on the menu?
Well it seems not. According to the Veganuary team, last year 47% of those taking part planned to maintain their vegan diet after the event and 77% said they were likely to try Vegan again in the future. According to Kantar, there is a strong vegan consumer group identity, driven by celebrity endorsements and media buzz. Engaged vegans are predominantly female millennials, living alone in London or the South with 93% not having children.
But is vegan food only for vegans? This is where some of perhaps the most surprising market figures come in. In fact, only 8% of plant based meals sold in the UK in 2018 were consumed by vegans, with the vast majority being eaten by an increasing number of ‘Flexitarians’ – an estimated 22 million in the UK alone.
“‘True’ vegans may want to stand apart and be acknowledged as a separate group, but it’s the flexitarians who will drive the plant-based-eating revolution.”
And it’s this group of flexitarians alongside their vegan counterparts that represent a growing opportunity for the out of home market, with a 388% increase in vegan takeaway meals sold between 2016-2018. With High street brands like Burger King and KFC offering vegan based foods, high end Chefs are looking for true innovation in plant based eating.
“Young chefs are definitely much more open to plant based food. There’s a lot more information and inspiration out there now, which they’re using to learn and grow from. They’re a lot more aware of what’s going on and the challenge that lies before them. And they’re embracing that challenge, learning new techniques and experimenting with ways to create delicious plates using plant based ingredients. I think that’s a very positive thing.”
Chantelle Nicholson, (Chef Patron, Treadwells)
The driving forces behind this shift in food trends seem to be predominantly our own wellbeing; with 55% signing up for Veganuary 2019 for health reasons – but that doesn’t automatically mean all vegan diets are healthy.
When cooking for vegans, it’s important to ensure sufficient proteins are consumed from a wide range of plant sources. Plant foods contain different combinations of essential amino acids, but not all of those that are essential, so it’s good to have a varied intake of nuts, seeds, pulses and legumes. There are also some key micronutrients to look out for that in a normal omnivorous Western diet would largely be found in meat, fish, and dairy products, such as iron, Vitamin B12, calcium, Zinc, and Iron. Nuts can be a great source of these important nutrients, but can also help provide the health benefits many of us are looking for.
'A number of observational studies report that people who eat more nuts tend to have a lower risk of heart disease, cancer and death from all causes, and evidence from controlled trials further suggests that eating nuts can help to reduce blood cholesterol.'
(Dr Stacey Lockyer, Nutrition Scientist, British Nutrition Foundation)
Unsurprisingly, discerning vegan and flexitarian consumers are also increasingly interested in the environmental impact of their foods alongside their nutritional credentials, and this is where Nutcellars Macadamia nuts can provide a simple yet original solution. Ethically and sustainably grown, our quality Macadamia nuts from Malawi provide a source of important micronutrients such as phosphorus, manganese, copper, and magnesium and are made up of over 60% beneficial monounsaturated fats. - Incredibly versatile, with a crunchy texture, they make a healthy addition to both sweet and savoury dishes. Macadamia nut butter acts as a cream substitute par excellence and is well worth a try as you explore plant based cooking and eating.
So, while we wait for the final numbers of Veganuary participants to be counted up, it seems we can be confident that, come February, Vegan foods will not have gone, but remain to offer an innovation challenge and opportunity for all.