Vegan Quarter puts plant-based food centre stage

Edinburgh’s food market and companies such as Sgaia show the only way is up for veganism in Britain

The two founders of Sgaia Foods, in front of their market stand, and selection of 'meat' products

As vegetarian eating becomes more popular, there is a parallel increase in interest in food that is free of all animal products. From market stalls to pop-up shops, veganism is on the rise in Britain and making inroads into mainstream menus.

Edinburgh is just one corner of the country where vegan food is selling like hot cakes and making a real impact on the dietary landscape of the locals. The idea of starting a regular Vegan Quarter at Leith Market was suggested to ‘At The Market’ (which runs Stockbridge, Grassmarket and Leith markets) by Hilary Masin, co-founder of Sgaia, a company that makes “mheat”, a vegan meat alternative, and showcases the best in locally made vegan products on the first Saturday of every month.

Sgaia was set up last summer but has big ambitions for its small-scale operation. Its mheat products are already a hit in Auld Reekie but the company also runs a “travelling vegan butcher shop” that will be visiting events around the UK this year, and plans soon to set up Britain’s very first vegan butcher shop.

“We want it to be a homegrown enterprise rather than an imported idea from the Netherlands and elsewhere,” says Masin. “At the moment we are just two vegan people, passionate about food culture and heritage, who travel round with a mobile vegan butcher shop, selling (in our opinion) the best fresh vegan meats out there.” Their products include vegan versions of steak, Tyrolean speck, rare roast beef and Italian salamino, as well as burgers and streaky bacon rashers.

Upscaling the idea will require investment, however, so the team are hoping to connect with an entrepreneur who shares their vision and wants to help them become the next Vegetarische Slager or Herbivorous Butcher. Investors in America have already spotted the financial potential of the shift towards healthier, meat free diets. New Crop Capital is a venture capital fund set up by former PETA activist Bruce Friedrich. It has raised $25 million already, which it is ploughing into firms like Beyond Meat and Purple Carrot, a vegan home-delivery service.

Financial backing and guidance on this side of the pond could see vegetarian and vegan meat alternatives move even further into the mainstream. So come on, any green-eating investors out there: dig deep.

 

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