Posted: 03/09/2019

Greener Thinking: Addressing the rise of plant-based diets

It’s impossible to ignore the creative advancements in vegetarian and vegan street food and FMCGs. The plant-based trend has put down some serious roots at a time when even carnivorous consumers have been curbing their meat consumption in an effort to achieve a realigned balance in their diet, but also to lower their environmental impact.

The footprint of rearing cattle is significant, but this isn’t a tit-for-tat spat about eco one-upmanship. You only need to dig into soya bean production to unleash a veritable can of worms. Instead, this is a nod to responsible butchery and the strides innovative vegan producers have made with alternatives like tempeh and seitan. 

The environmental motivation behind purchasing decisions is growing, and catering to this earth-conscious demographic is now more important than ever. Not only is it good for business, but it’s also good for the planet, and those green credentials need highlighting.

At the meat counter

Meat-free Monday, the campaign launched by Paul and Stella McCartney is now celebrating it’s tenth year and uptake in recent years has been strong, along with those participating in Veganuary – a loose pledge / social media challenge to ditch animal products for the month of January. 

However, this can be used to some butchers’ advantage, highlighting higher welfare meat, slow-growing breeds and local producers. Similarly, if consumers are interested in reducing their carbon footprint by eating less meat, they could also consider eating the rest of the animal and embracing a nose-to-tail ethos, à la Fergus Henderson. 

As with most retail items, telling the story is key. If a product has strong eco or local credentials, then chalk up that A-board or write out some signage. Low food miles? Your customers need to know.

Valuable alternatives

The Vegan Society say the number of people eating a purely plant-based diet rose from 150,000 to 600,000 between 2014 and 2018. A year later, this impact is surely felt by foodservice operators and fine food retailers up and down the country. It’s impressive to see the diversity of colourful, intensely flavoured veggie dishes and snacks now on offer and, by all accounts, the sector is growing rapidly. 

From pulled jackfruit and deep fried banana blossom, through to chicken wings made from seitan and burgers rendered from pea protein, food brands have invested in their R&D and the market is responding. 

Whether deployed in the retail or the foodservice side of your business, these new lines can complement your range, rather than replace meat-based products entirely. 

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