Business and Entrepreneurs Seize Opportunities in Rise of Veganism
ANIMAL RIGHTS - VEGETARIANISM, 8 Dec 2014
With a growing consumer interest in plant-based healthy eating, vegetarian and vegan options present a chance new business and competitive advantage.
In 2013 the UK meat-free food market hit £625m in sales, a figure forecasted to rise to £657m in 2014. Today, some 12% of the UK population identify as either vegan or vegetarian, and 20% of 16-25 year olds self-identify this way.
Jennifer Pardoe, founder of London plant-based food consultancy Zest says businesses are slowly recognising the ‘mega trend’. Recently we have seen brands like Birdseye introduce plant-based meal options and Sainsbury’s create clearer vegan and vegetarian product labelling.
“With more people becoming plant curious, restaurants and supermarkets are realising they need high quality plant-based food options to satisfy consumer demand,” explains Pardoe.
This is where plant-based food consultants come in. “Day to day, we can be found helping food producers create and get their products in market, and working with restaurants to create plant-based products that taste great and people want to buy.
“As a vegan you can live on Coke and crisps if you like, but it’s the job of plant-based food consultants to put more fruit, veggies, grains, legumes, nuts and seed options on the menu.”
David Benzaquen, CEO of PlantBased Solutions, a US-based marketing agency, credits the rise of private investors putting millions into food start-ups, and the growing consumer base of “flexitarians” as real drivers for change in the US market. “Consumers being both more aware of big animal agriculture, its impact on the environment and their own health, as well as campaigns such as Meatless Mondays, are key contributing factors to more people trying plant-based foods”.
With plant-based cooking on trend, entrepreneurs are seizing the opportunity to create new businesses.
One such food developer is Meriel Armitage, founder of vegan food pop up, Club Mexicana. After spending seven years living in Melbourne via San Francisco and New York, Meriel returned to London inspired to create food that both omnivores and vegans could love.
“The attitude towards plant-based foods in all three cities is very progressive, they’re a couple of years ahead of London in that respect. The vegan restaurants were packed because they were creating really exciting food.”
Another young plant-based entrepreneur is two-time world freerunning champion, Tim Shieff who has worked with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to create vegan recipes for Oliver’s FoodTube channel. Sheiff regularly makes his own YouTube videos promoting healthy vegan living and recently showed his 100,000 channel subscribers how to eat vegan in grilled chicken restaurant, Nandos.
Sheiff claims his vegan diet has increased his energy for freerunning training, and indeed more and more people are turning to a plant-based diet for health reasons. As Pardoe explains, “If you look at all the food retailers competing for the lunchtime eating out market, all the main players are promoting a ‘healthy option’. As plant-based food consultants, we are responsible for helping restaurants design healthy vegan products people want to eat regardless of their overall dietary choice.”
After the success of Club Mexicana, Armitage has expanded the concept to launch a fine dining version of the pop-up in collaboration with a chef who although isn’t vegan, approached her with the idea because he loves cooking with plant-based ingredients. “If this isn’t proof of changing attitudes in the food world, I don’t know what is,” she says.
Damien Clarkson is a writer and runs the ethical communications agency the People Like You. He also has a YouTube channel where he promotes the benefits of regular exercise and a vegan lifestyle. He tweets @damienclarkson
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