According to the Vegan Society, the UK is the largest consumer and purchaser of plant-based milk, meat, cheese and ready meals in Europe. One in three people in the UK have stopped, or reduced their meat consumption, 25% of evening meals in the UK are now vegan or vegetarianand in the space of just one year to November 2020, Deliveroo reported a 115% increase in demand for plant-based meals. As the lifestyle continues to boom, we ask Louise where newproducts are starting to gain ground and where vegan products areheading in 2021…
Yes, you read that right. Vegan seafood has become a fast-moving trend all over the world. I was in Amsterdam in February 2020 and I had my first experience of vegan ‘sashimi’. It really, really looks like raw fish. I admit I had very low expectations. These however were immediately dispelled. It was quite tasty, served with a sweet soy dip, and very moreish. I am not really a fan of plant-based meat, but I’d eat this again.The vegan seafood movement does seem to be following a similar trajectory to vegan meat, in that seafood junk –deep fried scampi, deep fried vegan shrimp, fish burgers, etc. –are popular in both supermarkets and early adopter food outlets. However, we’re starting to see better quality attemptsat vegan salmon, tuna and even caviar, with greater attention to health and natural ingredients.
Healthier Fake ‘Meat’
We’ve come a long way in terms of plant-based meat, cheese and seafood replacements, but these are all processed, and don’t contain the same nutritional profile as their animal counterparts. What we know about good health is that you need a diet high in natural protein and low in refined carbs, so this is a big challenge to plant-based alternatives. The wake-up call to this is already beginning to happen, and we predict that 2021 will be the year we start to see a trend in the direction of healthier and less processed animal alternatives. We are putting our energy into a trend which is sneaking in through the back door. Ed Al Subaei, executive chef at Stem & Glory, is a genius at creating fake ‘meat’ out of vegetables, instead of highly processed ingredients. For example, he makes a show-stopping ‘ham’ from smoked celeriac sheets, and ‘chorizo’ from beetroot. Using the classic flavours to make the experience, whileremaining 100% unprocessed. We’re not the only ones on this path either.
Vegan Ready Meals
The supermarket shelves are choc-a-bloc with vegan products. One gap however appears to be quality ready meals. Tesco has been ahead of the game here with their Wicked range. But for me personally, having sampled the offerings from all the major supermarkets, I am not convinced by taste or quality. As mentioned above, all too often products are veganised simply by removing the animal products, without much attention to the taste, and in many cases the texture. We believe that as well as this move towards better quality plant-based ready meals, we will also see a trend towards ready meals in general and grab-and-go foods in a wide variety of settings.
Vegan cheese is the absolute holy grail at the moment, and the race is on to be the first company that creates a plant-based cheese with the same taste and texture as dairy cheese. The noise in the plant-based cheese space is getting louder and louder with each passing week. Personally speaking, I feel there is a long way to go, but2021 could see this start to change, as a few brands are now on the verge of creating an authentic product with an engineered cow’s milk.
Innovation in sustainable vegan leather is happening. Michiel van Deursen from Capital V is one investor interestedin the plant-based fashion space. Leather is not sustainable at all, and since the alternative is often plastic, this has brought about a shift now towards plant-based and biodegradable vegan ‘leather’. Michiel predicts massive growth in plant-based fashion and materials in the next few years, where demand is currently outgrowing production capacity.
To finish I would just like to throw in one overarching trend which will underpin all others: Sustainability. To date, plant-based has been labelled, by sole virtue of it being ‘made from plants’, as ‘sustainable’. Is something sustainable just because it is plant-based? We believe that 2021 will be the year this comes fully under scrutiny. In 2021 sustainability will be the greatest trend of all, with consumers utilising their purchasing power in support of those with truly circular and authentic sustainable credentials.