Great article on the veganism explosion

How veganism went from a fringe food cult to a multibillion-pound industry

Ameilia Tait for Newstatesman:

When 19-year-old Olivia arrived for her 10:30am shift at the bakery chain Greggs on 3 January 2019, she walked into a “bomb site”. Her colleagues on the early-morning shift hadn’t taken the breakfast menu down and the drinks fridge lay empty. There were so many customers, Olivia says, that some cashiers had been unable to take their morning breaks. That day Greggs had launched its first vegan sausage roll in 950 of its 1,950 shops – Olivia’s Yorkshire bus station branch just happened to be one of them.

It's great to see huge demand for plant-based foods. I'm concerned that it's more about the money and not the ethics on which the veganism was founded.

Over the past few years, vegan food has become extraordinarily popular. In 2018, the Vegan Society registered 9,590 new products as vegan – a 52 per cent increase on products that carried the society’s official trademark in 2017.

That does not included food that was not registered with the Vegan Society. I would probably put that number at more than 80 per cent.

We are in the middle of a vegan arms race. A once-fringe food fad has been consumed by capitalism – but how, and why? While a record-breaking 250,000 people took part in Veganuary 2019 – a month-long charity initiative in which people follow a plant-based diet – the Vegan Society says that overall, vegans make up just 1 per cent of the UK population. Why are businesses falling over themselves to cater for a marginal market?

This is what worries me. The food industry will focus on what is trendy. Plant-based is not a fad and it never has been but that is how it is being treated by some businesses. 

Waitrose’s 2018 food and drink report found a third of Britons now deliberately reduce their meat-intake, while grocery analysts IGD report that 52 per cent of British shoppers either are, or are interested in becoming, vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian.

Those numbers will continue to increase. I hope that food produced by businesses will not be about money only. And who is behind these companies?

In January 2018, Ethical Consumer magazine warned its readers about vegan brands owned by meat and dairy parent companies. Alpro, one of the largest vegan milk alternatives, is owned by Danone – a French multinational company with a 24.4 per cent share in the global fresh dairy product market. “On social media, people are starting to ask where their money is going,” Ling says. “Is it just going into a pot of profits that’s ploughed back into the meat or dairy industry?”

I did not know this fact…

Arthur Ling decided to go vegan in 1926 – 18 years before there was a word for it – motivated by ethics and a concern for the environment. Ling chaired the newly formed Plantmilk Society in 1956, helping to popularise soy milk in the West. More than 60 years later, Plantmilk has become Plamil Foods, a Kent-based manufacturer of soy milk, egg-free mayonnaise and dairy-free chocolate.

There is another problem and this one is of great concern—eating too much unhealthy plant-based processed foods.

Read the full article. It has so many interesting  tidbits of information.

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