Veganism: defined “as a person who does not eat or use animal products” – is a growing community comprising of thousands of people. From those who elect this lifestyle from a social and environmental perspective, to the person who has to adopt veganism for health reasons, it is becoming an increasingly popular lifestyle choice.
In addition to personal reasons, we are also observing and learning about the number of famous artists who are taking to a diet of veganism as a way of life for a variety of publicly explained reasons, from health benefits to spiritual enlightenment. It is this access to information which could explain the mainstream growth of veganism during the last eight years.
Prior to 1950 before Article 9 of the Human Rights Bill for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1) of which veganism is covered, the lifestyle was considered something that was mainly associated with religious or marginalised groups.
However, Mintel’s 2017 Food and Drink Trend report highlights in their section ‘The Power of the Plant’ that both large and small food manufacturers are recognising the starring role a plant based diet is having on our society across all cultures.
“Aspirations for healthier and cleaner lifestyles are motivating consumers to prioritise fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and botanicals. In response, more manufacturers are releasing or promoting formulations that centre on plants and the flavours, fortifications, and functionalities they can add to food and drink products.”(2)
What are some of the reason for this cultural change?
In 1996 when the emergence of BSE – more commonly known as Mad Cows Disease, came to the public’s attention, people in the UK became acutely aware of some of the ways our food was manufactured. This crisis within our food chain caused mass hysteria, people began to concertedly educate themselves about the UK food chain and investigate alternative nutrional sources.
11 years later, in June 2007, Whole Foods with the slogan ‘Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet’ opened their first European store in London. Whole Foods had established itself in the USA as a great provider of healthier food options (even if slightly more expensive) since 1980.
2014 saw the launch of Veganuary (3) – a movement in January “dedicated to changing public attitudes, while providing all the information and practical support required to make the transition to veganism as easy and enjoyable as possible.”
Simultaneously, there began a rise of YouTubers and Bloggers, chronicling their health food journeys, due to the necessity or desire for a meat-free lifestyle.
All of this information alongside the increased drive nationally to source ingredients locally and sustainably caused the rise and re-emergence of wholesome and healthy restaurants and bakeries.
Michaela Pontiki, Founder of Healthy Lifestyle Bakery, Arapina, is one of the growing numbers of businesses across the UK who has identified the importance of creating tasty, nutritious meals for the entire family:
“In today’s society, people are bombarded with information; they are confused. For a long time, people saw food as something you just put inside your body to live. However, today, people are becoming aware of the impact bad food has on their body. There is no disputing that bad food affects both your physical and mental health.“
“I was frustrated at listening to people talk about tasteless sugar-free treats, or not being able to access a variety of delicious vegan options when they are out with their meat eating friends and family. In addition if as a vegan you are celiac, diabetic, gluten free, wheat free … there was a feeling of being held hostage to your diet. I knew I could do a better job of serving good food that tastes and looks good for the entire family.”
The way forward
The accessibility of many ‘old fashioned’ traditional skills is coming back to the fore, which means things like home baking and meal prep, have ensured that people are able to budget and maintain their lifestyle without it being too complicated.
Matthew Pedro and his Girlfriend, Leigh Champion, who have both become vegans in the last 12 months said:
“People seem to think to make vegan meals takes forever; we are both teachers so sometimes we’d get home from work at 7 pm and expect to be in bed by 9 pm. We still had time to cook a decent meal and eat it. Knowing how to cook is pretty important – vegan or not, you can’t live off microwave meals forever! – and I think a love of experimenting in the kitchen is important. I’ve been making vegan meals accidentally for years as a vegetarian.”
This is further supported by Steve Toms, who has been a vegan for the past 33 years, who stated:
“I have been vegan over 33 years. When I first purchased soya milk, I would have to go to local health food shops, no health food chain stores then. Now it is possible to purchase a wide variety of products that are vegan on every high street and supermarket. It’s so much easier to be a vegan in 2017 than any time before.”
Of course, vegan based businesses in the food sector is the fastest growing area within the sector of veganism. However, other areas of living a vegan lifestyle are slowly receiving recognition, from skincare and beauty to clothing and shoes. The support of veganism is further underpinned by social media and the support you can receive from others seeking suppliers of all kinds of products.
As shared in Facebook group Vegan UK (4) member Lucy Futcher:
“Attitudes towards veganism are certainly changing quickly. I think the Internet and social media has helped in recent years, through the spreading of farming and slaughterhouse footage, to the accessibility of studies, documentaries, and articles on the sustainability of veganism, to the sharing of quick, tasty and easy recipe videos. Things you wouldn’t have looked for, but easily stumble across now.”
(2) Mintel 2017 – Global Food and Drink Trends 2017