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The dramatic rise of plant based foods

In the past three years the number of people in the UK that class themselves vegan has risen from half a million, to over 3.5million. The reported numbers, which are conservative to say the least, show that over 7% of the UK are now devoted to a plant based diet. Bear in mind these findings do not include vegetarians, pescatarians and what many people refer to as flexitarian. When you take a look at the bigger picture you can quickly conclude that to survive and succeed in the current food service landscape, plant based options play a pivotal role.

We bring the matter of plant based foods to you in the wake of the new vegan sausage roll from Greggs. An example of how a high street pasty baron has managed to not only broaden its customer base, but generate a substantial amount of ‘hype’ in the process. Change has most certainly been afoot these past few years, and what’s most interesting is that your vegetarian, gluten free, and vegan friendly plates do not alienate, or turn off carnivorous diners in the same way that meat-based dishes do for non-meat eaters.

Perhaps one of the first examples of this is avocado on toast. It’s the brunch dish that’s become a moniker for Millennials and an edible mascot for the decade. Yes, this simple dish has certainly earned its keep and kept more than a few lights on, has been one of the easiest plates to knock up and generated good GP for chefs who have a solid source of avocados and good sourdough bread. Another high yielding food trend that bridged that happy gap between meat-eaters and meat-avoiders, was hummus. A bowl of this Middle Eastern staple has provided a versatile base and has been adorned with everything from roasted peppers and vegetable tagines, to barbecued chicken and lamb.

Some of the most popular food outfits at street food markets like Kerb and Dinnerama are also taking aim at plant based diets. We’re seeing exciting variations of falafel made with British grown fava beans, beer battered ‘fish tacos’ made using tofu, and an abundance of grain bowls filled with things like freekeh, roasted cauliflower, sesame crusted tofu, and raw shredded beetroot. The potential for experimentation in the kitchen is high and some traders have built a reputation on creating vegan alternatives to well established meat and fish dishes using ingredients like seitan and tempeh.

The significant popularity of plant based meals is more than a passing fad and offers incredible potential to savvy restaurateurs and food service operators. However, it can require some careful thought and a little tinkering out in the kitchen. While a good steak frites is unlikely to be disappearing from menus anytime soon, we should also expect vegetarian and vegan menu items to start being as sensible an option on the menu as a house burger. The days of just one vegetarian option are now in the rear-view mirror and the progressive restaurants of today are most certainly moving with the times.