January is traditionally a time to take stock of your health and embark on changes to your lifestyle. If so, then certain supermarkets and pubs are positively glowing with wellbeing, having added significantly to their vegan and vegetarian offerings.
Tesco is leading the charge, with a range of vegan ready meals and snacks, catering to the UK’s rapidly growing vegan population – more than 542,000 of us now eat no animal products, more than three times the number of 10 years ago. The supermarket giant has partnered with American chef Derek Sarno to create the “Wicked Kitchen” range, which contains 20 items to delight shoppers looking for something plant-based to eat in a hurry, including mushroom bolognese and teriyaki noodles, and sandwiches with fillings such as carrot pastrami and pumpkin falafel.
“When I first arrived in Britain from America I was hugely surprised at how little choice there was for vegans and those considering a lifestyle change,” says Sarno, who used to be global executive chef for Whole Foods Market. “For too long, vegans have been overlooked. Wicked Kitchen plans to change all that and I’m proud to work with Tesco and offer all its customers delicious meals to get them on board with this growing foodie revolution.”
Tesco also says that in the past year alone, demand for vegetarian ready meals and meat substitutes has rocketed 25 per cent. Other supermarkets are also keen to capitalise on the popularity of meat free eating and drinking, with the Co-op announcing last month that it would be expanding its range of vegan wines to 100 products by 2019. Eight of them are being launched this month – just in time for those MFMers who took part in Dry January to fall off the wagon! Rather than use traditional animal-based “fining” or filtering agents, such as egg white, gelatin, isinglass or casein, vegan wines employ plant-based alternatives to remove bacteria and improve clarity and taste. Vegan-friendly fining agents are derived from things like potatoes, peas, carbon and clay. Majestic Wines stocks 32 vegan wines and added vegan and veggie labels to its website last year.
“We are anticipating vegan wines to pick up momentum throughout 2018, so our range will be expanding throughout the year and we will continue to challenge suppliers to make wines vegan where they can without affecting the attributes of the liquid,” said Simon Cairns, category trading manager for Co-op wines.
Staying with the booze-related theme, the pub chain All Bar One and two London pubs have also been showing off their vegan bona fides.
All Bar One collaborated for the second time with the charity Veganuary to offer customers in all of its 52 branches nationwide a vegan menu – and not just for January, but for February too. The decision is clearly popular: 7 per cent of all meals served are now vegan, including Crushed Avocado & Tomato Bruschetta, a Rainbow Wrap with Beetroot Hummus, Artichoke and Avocado, and “The Vegan” burger and fries.
Matthew Glover, co-founder of Veganuary, said: “We’re delighted to be working with All Bar One again, and it’s great to see that even more new and exciting dishes have been added to the menu! Veganism is a lifestyle choice, and Veganuary showcases the benefits of this, and to have companies like All Bar One getting involved and supporting the charity is amazing.” Caitlin Young, the chain’s assistant marketing manager, added: “Veganism has quickly become one of the top culinary trends, and shows no signs of abating. It may seem hard to make a sudden switch away from meat, however with movements such as #MeatFreeMonday and #Veganuary2018, it’s easier than ever to get a taste of an alternative food lifestyle.”
Meanwhile London’s Spread Eagle and Blacksmith & Toffeemaker pubs have gone one better. Launched in mid-January, The Spread Eagle, in Homerton, claims to be the capital’s first vegan pub, with even its beer and cocktails being animal-friendly. It is the brainchild of Meriel Armitage, founder of the vegan Mexican chain Club Mexicana. The Blacksmith & Toffeemaker is a well-established boozer that has dropped all animal-related products from its menu, its owners deciding they prefer to offer customers less resource-intensive, greener and more nutritious options for their Sunday lunches and for meals throughout the week. Ditching the traditional steak and chips and sausage and mash, on the menu are things like vegan chorizo, polenta fries and jalapeño and refried bean grilled cheese sandwiches. Check out the menu here – and bear in mind that you can also order takeaway or get food delivered. Tuck in!