The exponential growth of plant-based eating

There are currently more than half a million vegans in the UK, representing an increase of over 260% in 10 years. In addition, there are 1.2million vegetarians, and the number of people choosing a predominantly but not exclusively meat-free diet is on the rise too, so it’s an ideal time for caterers to take a good look at their vegan offering. Dominika Piasecka, spokeswoman for The Vegan Society, advises: “Vegan products are not exclusively for vegans; in fact, they’re suitable for most diets and religions, and often constitute a safe food option for all. Offering vegan options in restaurants, pubs and cafés makes clear commercial sense – it opens up the potential market to not only half a million vegans in Britain, but also to a million more vegetarians, the huge number of meat and dairy reducers, the lactose intolerant, followers of certain religious groups, the health-conscious, and others who simply enjoy vegan food from time to time.” Many products can be made vegan simply by removing or swapping ingredients such as yogurt, milk and cheese. The animal-free alternatives are often more cost-effective and environmentally friendly too. “Caterers should, in the first instance, examine the dishes they already offer on their menu that could be easily ‘veganised’ – sometimes all it takes is removing a pesky small amount of dairy or egg to create a lovely vegan dish,” continues Dominika. “A stir-fry will be just as delicious with soy sauce instead of fish sauce; a curry with coconut milk instead of dairy; ingredients fried in vegetable oil instead of animal fat; and so on.”

Chain reaction Chain restaurants like Zizzi, Wagamama and Wetherspoons all have dedicated vegan menus while coffee shops Pret a Manger, Starbucks and Caffe Nero are offering more and more animal-free products. Independent caterers need to ensure they’re not left behind and food manufacturers have responded with a flurry of vegan-friendly launches. Central Foods, for example, have increased their range of vegan and vegetarian items with impressive results. “We’ve definitely seen a big increase in demand for these products, both sweet and savoury items,” says company MD Gordon Lauder. “Producers have risen to the challenge and created an enormous range of tasty, healthy frozen items that look great and are easy to prepare. There’s absolutely no reason why healthy vegetarian and vegan menu items can’t be as delicious and appealing as any other dishes.”

They recently launched two wraps – the KaterBake Beetroot Wrap and the KaterBake Pumpkin Wrap – which provide one of your recommended five-a-day fruit and vegetable intake. Fill with roasted vegetables and hummus for a delicious handheld snack. Meanwhile Pidy have launched four new eye-catching, veganfriendly pastry cases (spinach, carrot, beetroot and grilled onion), which are great for canapés or afternoon tea concepts.

9 in 10 vegans can’t find ‘grab and go’ options A new survey by The Vegan Society has found that 91% of vegans sometimes struggle to find ‘grab and go’ food options, which has prompted the charity to launch its Vegan on the Go campaign. The campaign aims to bring attention to the growing demand for vegan options and to highlight to businesses that veganism is a market trend which is here to stay. Visit for more information.

The word on the street It’s a well-known fact that street food vendors are influencing mainstream menus – and vegan cuisine is definitely at an all-time high. Young Vegans is a new vegan pie and mash brand based in north London’s trendy Camden Market. The brand began in 2016 popping up at street food markets across London as well as festivals and events across the UK, before securing its first brick and mortar venue. Marco Casadei, co-founder of Young Vegans, says: “Most people don’t want salad or bean burgers because they are dull so why serve them? If you want to succeed with plantbased foods you need to create hearty, tasty food that would satisify even the biggest carnist. Half my customers don’t even want salad garnish on their pies…. just straight up pie ‘n’ mash with gravy. Tells you something about human nature, vegan or not.”

The Young Vegans menu includes:

  • Seitan & ale pie (homemade seitan ‘wheatmeat’ cooked in a sweet ale beer)
  • All day breakfast pie (scrambled tofu, smoky baked beans, vegan sausages and caramelised onions)
  • Curry pie (butternut squash and chana kala peas cooked in a medium curry sauce)
  • Sweet potato pie (sweet potato, garden peas and carrot pie with a chickpea crust)

Other popular vegan street food inspired concepts:

Hashgreen: An all vegan menu including layers of hand-cut, fried hash potatoes, topped with mounds of hot goodness, from guilt-free mac and cheese to chilli-noncarne, finished off with homemade sauces

Club Mexicana: 100% vegan Mexican food. Plant-based soft corn tacos and big burritos filled with BBQ pulled jackfruit, guacamole, pink pickled onions, salted chillies and sour cream

Spice Box: All vegan and gluten-free – build your box choosing your base from brown basmati rice or quinoa pilau and top it with Jackfruit Tikka Masala, Sweet Potato & Summer Greens Peanut Curry or Tandoori Cauliflower Steak

Osu Coconuts: Vegan, gluten-free, organic coconut based pancakes and coconut water fresh from the coconut. Ban the bland Flavoursome ready-to-use sauces are an easy and cost-effective way to help caterers create delicious vegan dishes.

Ban the bland Flavoursome ready-to-use sauces are an easy and cost-effective way to help caterers create delicious vegan dishes. Matt Cutts, product director at Mars Food Europe, advises: “When catering for vegetarian and vegan diets, it’s important to include on trend flavours on these menus to encourage repeat custom. Mexican dishes lend themselves particularly well as the cuisine already includes great meat-substitutes such as a variety of pulses like kidney, black and butter beans as well as chickpeas and lentils. These are a great source of protein and provide great texture to the dish. Freshly baked enchiladas are the perfect example of this, simply fill with red peppers, black beans and kidney beans, top with Uncle Ben’s Texan Barbecue ready-to-use sauce for that rich Tex-Mex flavour and then sprinkle with vegan cheese for a delicious, popular menu item.”

Ben Bartlett, brand ambassador for Lion sauces, agrees: “For a light-bite option with the warming, aromatic and moreish flavours of garlic and soy, tap into one of the hottest global food trends around and glaze vegan cheese or Quorn with Korean BBQ sauce before grilling. Add grated carrot and crunchy salad leaves and load into a soft tortilla for an Asianinspired wrap with a difference.”

Fergus Martin, foodservice development chef, Major International, adds: “Some of the most popular flavours at the moment are Korean and Moroccan as these are on trend and can be used in many different dishes from starters like Korean Fried Cauliflower to mains such as a vegetable Moroccan tagine with cauliflower cous cous.”

Spotlight on students Millennials in particular are driving the vegan movement forward, with almost a third consuming meat alternative products every day and a further 70% consuming them at least a few times a week. With this in mind, Matt White, chair of The University Caterers Organisation advises: “With a little imagination, contemporary meat-free options can be some of the most delicious and sought-after food choices on the menu – and can really help to drive a business’ bottom line. Take the University of Chester, for example, which has implemented a meatfree bar on campus. The bar was opened in response to growing demand for more vegetarian and vegan options. Since its opening, sales have risen by 30% with overall take up of vegetarian options also up by 30% – highlighting the benefits of catering to this market.”

Five tips from Alpo to shake up your plant-baed menu:

  1. Go nuts – follow the trend and add a plant-based coconut hot chocolate or almond latte to your menu. People will pick it because it tastes great, and just happens to be a lighter choice too.
  2. Drink your veggies – Juice carrots, greens and beets, or throw them into a green smoothie with a piece or two of fruit, like apples or berries and a dollop of yogurt, or one of the plant-based choices, such as soya, which is rich in plant protein. Add sprinkles on top such as crushed almonds or stir in some porridge oats to make them extra filling.
  3. Make plant-based breakfasts – From omelettes and frittatas stuffed with colourful peppers to porridge bowls topped with delicious handfuls or fruit, nuts and seeds, the choices are many and varied.
  4. Add a salad – It sounds simple but a great rule of thumb is to serve a salad with every meal. Try using orange juice to make a dressing or adding lots of colour with peppers, grated carrots, courgette ribbons and grapes.
  5. replace with a veg – Many vegetables make good carriers for food. The latest trend is to use mushrooms to make burgers, or slices of sweet potato to make a slider. Use peppers as little pepper pots.