The vegan food category, previously infamous for bland, lacklustre meals with no variety has been transformed over the years and we have witnessed more vegan food coming to market in the last 12 months than ever before. 

The Hospitality sector is now a frenzied hive of vegan and plant-based activity, forming one of the most exciting movements we have seen in quite some time.  The market is in fact moving so fast, that what was only a pipe-dream last January, is now in market and selling like hot cakes (vegan ones, of course!). So to assist with your menu planning for 2022, the Stir it Up team made a round of soya lattes, opened a packet of vegan KitKats and researched some of the latest vegan products to hit the shelves.

Egg-cellent News For Dairy Substitutes

The dairy substitute category is booming at present, milk alternatives in particular are leading the way. For those of you keen to explore the latest plant-based milk, try pistachio milk. Nutty and sweet, it is made from pistachios and its unsweetened form is also keto-friendly. Use it to make overnight oats or to add a new flavour to your coffee menu.

Egg substitutes have been used by operators for a while, but with limited success when it comes to baking. Mashed banana, applesauce and arrowroot have all been tried and tested, however try as we may, they still render certain items out-of-bounds… that is, until now! Not only has aquafaba changed the baking game for meringue lovers everywhere, but operators can now select from a variety of options including Beyond Egg, Crackd, Terra Vegane and VeganEgg which can be used to make scrambled egg, omelettes, cakes and scones.

Often it’s the little things that make a difference and finding a good alternative for crème fraiche is one of them! Pasta, fajita and nacho lovers can breathe a sigh of relief and cravings can be satisfied with a vegan alternative to crème fraiche that ticks both taste and texture boxes. Certain dairy substitutes have been notoriously difficult to get ‘right’ – cream and cheese are two of them, with many vegans coining the phrase “it’s a taste you get used to” as opposed to gushing over the flavour profile. Fortunately the tide is turning, and not only are we seeing better cream substitutes on the market, but cheese substitutes are also coming along in leaps and bounds too.

Powerful Protein

Meat substitutes have been in the market for some time and are constantly evolving to improve taste, texture and appearance to appeal to meat eating consumers and flexitarians alike, however work has also been underway to elevate the flavour and nutritional value of alternatives to meat-based snacks and deli items. “The Country Range Vegan Sausage Rolls and Vegan Pasties are two products which have received plaudits for their fantastic taste and ease-of-use. Simple to prepare and an ideal handheld snack, they have proved a winner with outlets offering takeaway options throughout the pandemic.” Comments Kate Bancroft, Country Range Group Marketing Manager.

Protein is a hot-topic within the vegan and plant-based category and over the last 12 months we have seen a number of protein-focused introductions. Oat bran, pea protein and fava bean protein are all helping to raise the nutritional value of vegan and plant-based food, assisting with sustaining a feeling of fullness after a meal. The protein flakes recently launched by Gold and Green Foods are a good example of ingredients now readily available – they can be used in patties, falafels and fillings for pastries, pies or dumplings as well as granola and smoothies for a nutrient boost. Developments such as this will change the game for operators who no-longer have to rely on beans for protein or bread for ‘bulk’.

With exciting times ahead for 2022 when it comes to vegan food, our advice to operators everywhere is to continue trialling and testing as many new products that come to market as possible, updating and broadening your menus accordingly to encourage more plant-based sales.

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We’re In The Middle Of A Chain Reaction!

There has been a surge in creativity throughout the hospitality sector when it comes to vegan food – from local independent restaurants to school canteens and care home caterers. While we champion all operators who are forging their own vegan path, we thought we would shine a spotlight on a few restaurant chains who are also finding new ways to bring plant-based to the masses. Their efforts will, without doubt, influence consumer behaviour in 2022 and beyond. Here’s a taster of what was introduced across a number of chains in the last 12 months.

Chiquito updated their vegan menu to include paella, enchiladas, telera buns, loaded wedges corn ribs and deep-fried ice cream

Costa Coffee launched a new vegan BBQ chick’n panini, a sumptuous Jamaican ginger loaf cake and a roasted butternut squash pastry roll to their growing list of vegan and plant-based options

Delighting us with their play on words is Domino’s chick-ain’t pizza, topped with vegan cheese, onions, peppers and southern fried vegan nuggets.

Serving up an alternative to a traditional goat curry, is Las Iguanas with their Dominican-style jerk-spiced jackfruit and Scotch bonnet curry, served with spring onion rice and pink pickled onions

Adding to their range of hot wraps, is the Meatless Meatball wrap from Pret A Manger, made with a layer of red tapenade and chipotle ketchup, topped with crispy onions. Pret A Manger have also added a new vegan breakfast baguette and hoisin mushroom wrap to their menu in the last 12 months

Already streets ahead with their PETA Award-winning vegatsu curry, Wagamama has also launched vegan sticky ribs, vegan chilli squid and firecracker curry. Pledging to transform half of their main menu to meat-free options by the end of 2021, we are keen to see how long it will be before they remove meat from the menu completely!