The year 2019 has been named "The Year of the Vegan" and the proof is in the numerous trends that have arisen from its boom in popularity.
The growing demand for vegan options has resulted in society placing more pressure on the mainstream marketplace. These are the trends that have emerged:
Veganism going mainstream
An article published by The Vegan Society revealed that interest in veganism has soared, quadrupling in the five years between 2012 and 2017, garnering nearly three times more interest than “vegetarian” and “gluten-free” searches. So, whether you like it or not, society is making room at the table for vegans, and other restrictive diets too.
From slivers of carrots masquerading on a toasted bagel as salmon on a bed of micro herbs and cream cheese, to pulverised soaked cashews with turmeric and paprika as a base for cheese sauce - things are getting extremely experimental.
As chefs and home cooks search for new ways of making vegetables more enticing, rather peculiar faux meat, cheese and dairy items are beginning to crop up at farmers markets and restaurants in the name of veganism.
The frozen food and fridge sections of supermarkets used to be exclusive to the likes of steaks, sausages, chops, pizzas and pasta. Now, vegans can pop into stores and grab a microwave meal for lunch and a casserole to pop into the oven for dinner without any hassle. Woolworths, Checkers, Pick n Pay and Spar are among the bigger supermarkets to stock vegan options.
Why is there such a demand for meatless meat? Vegans don’t like meat - do they? In short, the answer is that they most certainly do, at least as far as flavour and texture go. Since most vegans have chosen the diet for ethical reasons, they might still miss the taste of a perfectly juicy hamburger, pink in the middle, that dribbles blood…
Another reason is inclusivity. When the rest of their friends and family are having a braai or picking up fast food after a night at the club, they feel left out they have to eat a separate meal. In 2019, however, we’ve started to see a shift with more restaurants and fast food outlets offering up meatless meat options that fit in with the rest of their menu items.
The Beyond Burger launched in SA not too long ago. It is a vegan-friendly patty made from a mix of pea protein isolates, expeller-pressed Canola Oil and beetroot, launched in South Africa this year. With that ground, meaty texture, an exterior that browns perfectly on the grill and its ability to bleed, it’s become one of the most realistic versions of plant-based meat. As a bonus, it contains 20g of protein and is free of soy, gluten, cholesterol, GMO, hormones and antibiotics.
Although scientists in lab coats are working hard on creating vegan meat options that taste like the real thing, the reality is, veganism is still very niche. The demand for vegan products are still not as high as the real thing and since most of them, like the Beyond Burger, have to be imported, they carry rather hefty price tags.
For instance, you’ll be set back R129 if you order the Houdini Burger (made with the Beyond Burger patty) at Hudson’s, a popular burger joint in South Africa. It is the most expensive burger on the menu, despite being much smaller in size and weighing in at 113g. Similarly, Jackson’s Real Food Market in Johannesburg serves up the Beyond Meat Vegan Burger for R145 - the most pricey of all the items on their menu and nearly R60 more expensive than their beef burger.
Nevertheless, with vegan dishes receiving representation on menus, it’s likely that more people will be willing to try them, either as a healthier alternative (in some instances) or purely out of interest. And, someday, maybe soon, they might become just as popular as other menu items, and just as affordable too.