Vegan products hit new heights

Shelves are groaning with new meat- and dairy-free offerings as food companies join the in-crowd

Vegan shelves in Waitrose

More people than ever enjoyed Veganuary this year, but its success hasn’t just been down to willpower: the growing number of delicious animal-product-free foods on offer at supermarkets and shops has helped massively.

More and more companies are jumping on the vegan bandwagon, seeking to capitalise on a growing market for healthier and more planet-friendly fare. Unilever made a huge statement about its commitment to the cause in December when it bought The Vegetarian Butcher – a Dutch company that opened its first shop in The Hague just eight years ago and a year later was selling its products internationally. Its acquisition by the multinational giant, which owns Knorr and Marmite, is a sure sign that we can expect to see more Vegetarian Butcher products on our shelves soon.

A more familiar brand to British meat free eaters is Quorn, which is adding vegan “fishless fillets” to its roster of edible talent. Famous for its mince and nuggets made from mycroprotein, derived from mushrooms, this will be the company’s second foray into the marine environment, building on the popularity of its “fishless fingers”. The fillets get their flavour of the sea from seaweed extract and will be available from March.

Meanwhile, skyrocketing demand for its new vegan sausage rolls has led Greggs to announce they will be available at all of its 1,800 shops around the country – with more vegan products to be announced soon. The baker sold out of the Quorn rolls on January 3, the day they were launched, and the hashtag #greggsvegansausageroll became Britain’s top trender, partly due to media “personality” Piers Morgan’s many negative comments on the subject.

The supermarkets too are continuing the good work of recent years, catering for a growing cohort of vegans, veggies and meat reducers. Marks & Spencer launched its first vegan range in January, Plant Kitchen, which features more than 60 products, including ready meals whose packaging is completely recyclable. Sainsbury’s launched 25 new meat and dairy-free products, including vegan “shrimp” and “salmon”, jackfruit quarter-pounders and a “Shroomdog”, from brands including Sophie’s Kitchen, Lazy Vegan and Gardein.

As well as adding to its vegan range with two new vegan pizzas – No Cheese Houmous Pizza and No Cheese Italian Garden Pizza – Iceland has become an MFM favourite by sharing “Meat Free Monday Myth Busters” on its Twitter feed, as well as regular vegan recipes. It will also soon become an official supporter of the MFM campaign. And in the spring, Nestlé will be selling its own “Incredible Burger”, which, while no relation of the Impossible Burger, will be taking both it and Beyond Burger on in the beetroot-rooted “looks like meat” stakes. The patty will be made of soy and wheat protein and will be part of the Garden Gourmet brand.

And finally, a company that specialises in meat has announced it is spending £3 million on a new meat-free factory. Finnebrogue, which is based in Northern Ireland, has been producing veggie and vegan products for the past three years, having produced only beef and venison for more than two decades. Its managing director, Brian McMonagle, said: “Given the increasing demand for vegan and vegetarian alternatives [to meat], this new factory was the obvious next step.”

With so many delicious, healthy and environmentally friendly products on offer, it looks like 2019 will be a good year for meat reducers, veggies and vegans alike – and for the planet too.