With the number of vegans in the UK soaring to more than 3.5m in the past few years, following a plant-based diet has never been more trendy.
In January, scores of people attempted to follow a vegan diet for the first time as they took part in Veganuary, an annual event that raises awareness of the health and environmental benefits of veganism.
Numerous brands have taken note of the rising interest in veganism in recent times, and as such have launched new products with the aim of attracting a new demographic of plant-loving customers.
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Earlier this year, Greggs made headlines with its new vegan sausage roll, while McDonald’s recently launched a vegan-friendly Happy Meal to rival its typically meaty options.
“Anything that gives more choice for people to eat vegan food is a positive move and shows that even mainstream companies like McDonald’s and Greggs have to accept that veganism is now a mainstream lifestyle choice,” Dominika Piasecka, spokesperson for The Vegan Society, tells The Independent.
Here are the biggest vegan food launches to look forward to in 2019:
Ben and Jerry’s new ice cream flavour
Ben and Jerry’s has added a new non-dairy ice cream flavour to its roster, with the launch of Coconutterly Caramel’d.
It’s the first coconut-based flavour to have been launched by the ice cream brand in Europe since 2012.
The concoction includes a combination of vegan Fairtrade ice cream, caramel, cookies and chocolate chunks.
Ben and Jerry’s first launched its range of non-dairy ice creams in 2017.
Coconutterly Caramel’d, a tub of which costs £6, is an exclusively non-dairy flavour.
“We’ve been churning on this for years, trying to recreate the luscious flavours and satisfying creaminess that set Ben and Jerry’s dairy collection apart and we think we’ve cracked it with a taste like no udder,” said Josine Nohlmans, Ben and Jerry’s flavour guru.
“We think this tastes so good that our non-dairy fans won’t miss what’s missing.”
McDonald’s vegan-friendly Happy Meals
McDonald’s has launched its first ever vegetarian Happy Meal, the contents of which have been chosen by children and their mothers.
While the new Happy Meal is marketed as being vegetarian, it is technically vegan, as it contains dairy-free and vegan ingredients.
However, as the tortilla wraps in the range pass through the same toaster that’s also used for McDonald’s buns, which contain milk, the fast food chain has labelled it as vegetarian.
There are two variations of the meal. The first, which costs £2.49, contains a veggie wrap, consisting of a red pesto goujon with tomato ketchup and shredded lettuce in a toasted wrap.
The second, which costs £2.99, contains a spicy veggie wrap, consisting of two red pesto goujons, spicy relish with tomato, lettuce and red onion wrapped in a toasted tortilla.
McDonald’s has been working with the Vegetarian Society in order to make the vegan-friendly Happy Meal a reality.
“There’s a growing demand for veggie food everywhere and it’s fantastic to see McDonald’s meeting the needs of their customers,” said Lynne Elliot, chief executive of the Vegetarian Society.
“It is especially important for young veggies to be able to choose something to eat when they are out with their friends.”
Greggs vegan sausage rolls
Greggs caused quite a commotion when it announced that it had launched a vegan sausage roll following months of speculation that they were planning on targeting vegan customers.
The product, which costs £1, was originally released in 950 of the bakery chain’s UK stores.
From March 2019, the vegan sausage roll will be available to purchase in all 1,950 Greggs stores across the country.
Made with vegetable-oil-based pastry and a “bespoke Quorn filling”, the release of the vegan sausage roll sparked a huge debate on Twitter.
“Nobody was waiting for a vegan bloody sausage, you PC-ravaged clowns,” Piers Morgan tweeted.
The response tweeted by the official Greggs Twitter account, which read: “Oh hello Piers, we’ve been expecting you,” has garnered 113,000 likes and 16,000 retweets.
Watch The Independent conduct a taste test of the vegan sausage roll here.
Marks & Spencer Plant Kitchen
On 2 January, Marks and Spencer launched Plant Kitchen, a collection of vegan meals, snacks and ingredients that caters to customers who follow a plant-based diet.
The range includes more than 60 items, including products such as cauliflower popcorn with buffalo dip, mushroom stroganoff, vegan Margherita pizza and vegan coleslaw.
Plant Kitchen was developed in response to the rise of consumers including increasingly less meat and animal by-products in their diets.
“This is the year we’ll truly see plant-based food go mainstream,” said April Preston, director of Product Development at the supermarket chain.
All of the prepared meals were created by Claire Richardson, senior product developer at Marks and Spencer and a vegan herself.
“Some people think meat-free food is dull but this couldn’t be further from the truth, it’s experimental and delicious,” she said.
“We’ve created a collection that will appeal to everyone – whether you’re a longstanding vegan, want to lead a more flexitarian lifestyle or you love meat but think cauliflower popcorn sounds amazing!”
The price of snacks at Plant Kitchen starts from £2, with prepared meals costing a minimum of £3.
Click here for more information.
Crussh vegan Soho store
In celebration of Veganuary, juice bar chain Crussh made its Soho store on Broadwick Street go plant-based for the month of January.
The pop-up featured more than 70 vegan recipes, including products such as black rice and avocado sushi for £4.95, courgette and lime cake for £3 per slice and a vegan ‘cheese’ mushroom and chestnut sourdough spelt toastie for £4.50.
Crussh also decorated the store in line with the plant-based theme, hanging plants from the walls and ceilings and displaying a variety of plant-inspired artworks by illustrator Mark Harrison.
“The offering in our Soho store, and across the business, is really focused on maintaining the integrity of vegan food, keeping it pretty simple, really delicious, and staying true to our food values at Crussh,” said Helen Harrison, head of marketing at the company.
“Creating the menu was far easier than we initially thought, as we already have a wide vegan range across the business.”
In addition to the pop-up, Crussh also launched eight new vegan products across all of its stores in the capital, including food items such as a lemon tart pot for £2.75 and a banana and coconut cacao spread bagel for £2.50.
TGI Fridays vegan “bleeding” burger
Last year, TGI Fridays added a vegan “bleeding” burger to its menu in the US.
The burger, which has been made from mushrooms, coconut oil, beetroot juice and plant-based protein, has now been launched in the UK.
“The burger answers the prayers of those on a vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian diet – or simply wanting to cut down on the meat – as it tastes every bit as juicy and flavoursome as the real thing,” the TGI Fridays statement read.
The burger achieves its “bleeding” effect due to the beetroot juice inside.
“Fridays flame-grilled, hand-crafted burgers are one of the most popular dishes on our menu and now everyone can enjoy their legendary taste, whether they are vegan, vegetarian, trying to cut down on meat, or anything in between!” said TGI Fridays head chef Terry McDowell.
“We launched our vegan burger in the States last year and have been inundated with messages asking if we planned to bring it to the UK. So, it is here by popular demand!”
TGI Fridays has confirmed that the burger bun is 100 per cent vegan.
The burger was launched on the menu on 7 January and costs £10.99.
KFC “Imposter” vegan chicken burger
KFC has announced the launch of a vegan chicken burger across selected restaurants in the UK.
“The Imposter” burger is made from a Quorn fillet, and is served in a soft glazed bun with fresh iceberg lettuce and vegan mayonnaise.
The burger is being trialled in chains in London, Bristol and the Midlands from 17 June for a four-week period.
Victoria Robertson, chief vegetable enthusiast at KFC UK and Ireland, said its “unfair” vegans have been “denied the incredible taste of KFC up to now”.
“Which is why we’ve worked hard to perfect ‘The Imposter’ – a vegan burger that the Colonel would be proud of,” Robertson added.
For all the latest news on vegan food, click here.