It doesn’t seem like that long ago that people deemed ‘going vegan’ as something strange and extreme, as though starting a vegan lifestyle meant giving up anything tasty or fun in the kitchen. But suddenly, the plant-based, animal-product-free dietary choice has exploded into the mainstream. With celebrity endorsements from sports superstars like Venus Williams, to singer Miley Cyrus, there’s no shortage of delicious vegan meals showing up on our Instagram and Facebook feeds. What was once a mocked concept is slowly becoming the respectful, supported choice it should be – in the UK, plant-based food sales increased 1,500% between 2016 and 2017.
On veganism’s surge in the UK, The Vegan Society released data surrounding the current consensus and viewpoint of the public on the dairy and meat-free way:
- 56% of adults in the UK practice vegan buying behaviours
- 19% have cut down on buying meat and are checking cosmetics and toiletries for animal-testing
- 13% actively choose meat-free or dairy-free meals when eating out
- 51% are happy to see vegan food in shops and restaurants
Perhaps the increase has come as a result of a more flexible approach; many of us who aren’t vegan are trying out a few vegan options each week, actively decreasing our intake of meat and dairy (a viewpoint named as the ‘flexitarian’ approach). Perhaps because of this, the mindset towards vegans has drastically improved, with 43% of people saying they respected vegans for their lifestyle.
But what factors have contributed to veganism’s 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%). This was followed by 39% of people who signed up for health reasons, and 10% who said it was for environmental reasons.
There’s a certain element of trend-following and vanity, The Independent observes, as the increase in Google searches for the word ‘vegan’ correlate with searches for the word ‘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.
Take a look at the top vegan food trends for 2018, and you’ll easily see the appeal:
- 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.
Looking outside of the kitchen, there’s a rising demand for businesses to cater more for vegans with on-the-go food options. A recent survey found that 91% 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.
Even if you’re not going vegan, adding a few vegan choices to your diet can be wholly beneficial. 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 veg 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.
Whether you’re debating going vegan or just increasing your veggie intake, you might want to consider growing your own. Even a small garden can house a few home-grown herbs and fruits! You just need some compost bags and a few garden tools to start cultivating your own supply of tomatoes for a home-made tomato sauce, or cucumbers for the freshest salad you’ll ever taste!
You can also grow proteins in your garden for a vegan-friendly meal. Think beans and seeds, like sunflower seeds or soybeans.
How do you feel about the rise in vegan popularity in the UK? Are you going to try out some vegan offerings at cafés and restaurants? You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how far vegan cooking has come, and if nothing else, you’ll reap the many environmental and health benefits.