Last year’s Veganuary, when people are inspired to try going vegan for January, was the biggest year yet, with 168,500 registered participants from 165 countries. To put that into perspective, just 3300 people registered when the charity campaign began back in 2014. Whether it’s for the sake of the animals, our health, the environment, or some other reason entirely, everyone will have their own reason for trying the vegan way.
Forty per cent of survey respondents had identified as omnivore before taking part in Veganuary; 16 per cent were pescetarian; 33 per cent vegetarian; and 11 per cent already vegan.
Catering for vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians is clearly becoming much more important, and the food industry is responding. As Daniel Trench, Head Chef at Briarfields Hotel in North Norfolk told Feast Norfolk readers recently: ‘Veganism is beginning to be much better accepted into the industry, with many more vegan dishes appearing on menus and fantastic new restaurants opening.’
If you’re in the hospitality industry, and about to launch a new menu, the chances are you’re going to want to shout about the vegan and vegetarian options on it – The Hoste in Burnham Market was a good case in point recently. And at the new Shambles Café Bar Bistro in North Walsham, there promises to be lots of vegetarian and vegan food on the menu (the chef has even been experimenting with making vegan mozzarella from cashew milk, for example).
The big chains are also catching on: in Chapelfield Plain, outside intu Chapelfield, wagamama launched a vegan version of its iconic katsu curry, the vegatsu, earlier this year, aimed at vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians, and Yo Sushi! also launched new vegan dishes.
Then there are the new restaurants which are 100 per cent plant based, such as Erpingham House, in Tombland, Norwich. Elsewhere in Norwich, The Tipsy Vegan, on St Benedicts Street, is more established and had signed up to the recent Norfolk Restaurant Week, the first time a wholly plant-based menu has been available during the event.
According to the Norwich Vegans, Norwich is fast becoming one of the vegan capitals of the UK, with lots of places to eat and shops to visit. Mel Cook, PR Manager, VisitNorwich, would agree, saying: ‘Over the past 18 months there has been an increase of vegan outlets in Norwich as well as vegan options on many menus across the city.’
She adds: ‘Tofurei in Pottergate is the UK’s first micro soya dairy and uses soya beans grown in Norfolk. Because of growing demand for vegan products, they have big expansion plans which will see them opening, in spring 2019, additional larger city premises with two floors of seating, hot food and space for a programme of exciting workshops. This is great news for Norwich and I’m sure will encourage vegan tourism particularly because of their workshops.’
Fabrizio Fiaschi, owner of Amaretto Delicatessen on St Georges Street, has also expanded his menu to include more vegan options, and explains why: ‘Our takeaway vegan food is ever more popular and so we sell vegan soups and ready meal options daily now. Over the summer we had lots of vegan salads in the shop and they went down really well; it’s important to ensure there’s something interesting on offer I think, people really seem to appreciate that. I’ve really noticed that plenty of non-vegans increasingly really like this kind of food too, they see it as a healthy option.’
Over at the University of East Anglia, Namaste Hut, the first exclusively vegetarian and vegan outlet on the UEA campus, has opened to faculty, students and the general public – it’s located in The Enterprise Centre – more commonly known as the Thatched Building opposite the Sports Park.
Fearn Ainsworth, Commercial Manager at Adapt Low Carbon Group, which manages The Enterprise Centre, comments on the demand for vegetarian and vegan food: ‘Given the environmental implications of meat and dairy production, Namaste’s position as a vegetarian company is a natural fit with the sustainability ethos of The Enterprise Centre, the greenest building in the UK.’
Vijay Jetani, Director of Namaste Norwich, adds: ‘We are proud to be the first dedicated vegetarian and vegan cafe in the history of UEA campus.’
For some, the appeal of discovering exciting and different food has led them to cooking vegan. Take cook and caterer Nania Tait, who has just launched a vegan supper club at The Old Green Door in NR2, Norwich. Because she has had such a great response – including from non-vegans – she is planning similar supper clubs next year.
Then there are our vegan producers. Booja-Booja, the multi award-winning chocolate and ice cream producer, based in Brooke, can proudly claim that all its products are vegan – so much so it is accredited by the Vegan Society (UK). Marketing Manager Kirsty Storr says: ‘At the heart of everything we do is respect for people and the planet, which is why our products are all vegan, and also why everything we produce is organic. This has been one of the company’s guiding principles since our inception by our founder, Colin Mace, nearly 20 years ago.’
Also on the chocolate theme, Laura Cotton of Cocoa Delicious, based in East Harling, has been busy working on some festive vegan flavours to add to her range of gourmet hot chocolate stirrers.
With this sort of response by the food industry in 2018, it looks like we are set for another record-breaking Veganuary come January 2019.
Featured in issue 32 – December 2018