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Is vegan food finally becoming mainstream?

As Greggs in the UK sees its shares double after introducing the vegan sausage roll, is meat avoidance finally hitting the mainstream?

Last night I was out with a few friends in London and decided to order a burger. They had a special offer on vegan mains; two-for-one on any option that didn’t include meat. I decided to try the Beyond Meat Burger, a water and pea protein-based alternative to the classic meat option.

What struck me immediately was that it tasted almost identical to the patties I’d been eating my whole life, textures and all. The only difference was the ingredients, and the added benefit of knowing that my meal wasn’t clouded in moral apathy. There was no death associated with my food which, in this day and age, is certainly a good thing.

Many of the arguments against veganism have typically been concerned with convenience. Creating a nutritious and balanced meal solely through fruit, veg, and other plant-based ingredients can be a challenge, especially to the less experienced cook. Yet here I was, in a pub in central London, munching down a vegan burger like it was the nearest McDonald’s quarter pounder.

As more and more companies, pubs, and restaurants embrace the increasing demand for plant-based alternatives, veganism is slowly shifting from conscious-eater-trend to a mainstream lifestyle, one that doesn’t mean compromising on fast foods such as burgers or baked foods. We’ve been ordering an unacceptably large amount of vegan sausage rolls to the office in the last few months, for example, which was practically impossible even just a year ago.

We’ve seen how climate change is becoming an increasingly worrisome and pressing issue, and the more of us that turn to plant-based diets the better. It’s not just a few selected places, either – more and more food establishments are turning to plant-based options in order to bring in more customers.

Which companies have already gotten on board?

Greggs in the UK has undergone a six-year strategy to turn its brand from traditional bakery to high-street convenience food stop. Each store now focuses on quick breakfast foods, coffees and teas, as well as vegan options such as Quorn-based sausage rolls. The demand for said rolls was so intense at launch that the company sold out across the country – and that feverish appetite has yet to really slow down.

Burger King, meanwhile, has been testing out a vegan burger that is completely plant-based in the United States, though it has come under fire for being cooked with meat juices. KFC has also started to test vegan versions of its famous nuggets, which were apparently so popular during their trial run that its likely they’ll be pushed out nationwide.

Even McDonalds has begun to look at various ways it can offer customers quick foods without the use of meat. In Germany, the fast food chain has rolled out animal-free options including the ‘Big Vegan TS’. They too have been popular, and it’s likely we’ll see them in both the UK and the US soon.

Does vegan fast food miss the point?

You could argue that giving people fast food vegan options misses the intention of veganism and plant-based-diets. Beyond Meat burgers and nuggets, while a nice alternative to the usual choices, aren’t really promoting a healthy lifestyle. They give companies such as KFC and McDonalds a ‘vegan friendly’ reputation that, given most of their products are heavily meat based, is probably largely underserved.

But that doesn’t mean we should look down on these new, more mainstream vegan choices. People are going to eat convenience food regardless – if more of those people choose an option that doesn’t include meat, then that’s undoubtedly a good thing. It may also lead to more of us being introduced to veganism in a way that doesn’t feel preachy or heavy-handed, and could encourage an increase in plant-based diets in general.

The more commonplace vegan options become the better it is for our planet, when all’s said and done. The meat industry is a huge factor in climate change and reducing its impact is vital if we want to tackle the issue seriously. That’s alongside increasing rates of meat consumption in countries such as China, which is on the up when it comes to pork and beef.

If purchasing a vegan burger from Burger King can convert previous nay-sayers into vegans, then that’s a win. The more of us that are exposed to plant-based diets, and the more of us that are educated on meat consumption and global warming, the better chance we have of keeping our planet healthy enough to be habitable. Change comes slowly, albeit one pea-protein burger in the local pub at a time.

We’ll see you in the queue at our local Greggs for an early morning vegan sausage roll.


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