Toast with vegan spreads.
Photo by Einladung_zum_Essen, c/o Pixabay

A fascinating range of ready meals and products for the vegan is now available in the month of January, redubbed Veganuary. The idea is to promote a vegan or vegetarian diet for those of us removing the excesses of Christmas and the New Year celebrations. It comes around nearly every year and is designed as an initiative to inspire us to try vegan and vegetarian alternatives in this first month. Who knows, some of us stick with the project by continuing the diet throughout the year. Admittedly, many of us are still carnivores at heart but there is clear merit environmentally and nutritionally in reducing meat consumption for a start.

To help us cope with what might be perceived as a shortage of meat-free products, many of the own-label retailers have been producing their own vegan dishes. This is the group that is largely leading the way in both the vegetarian and vegan sectors. The trend for these types of products is worth quite a bit and it’s a growing trend in consumer shopping. Walk along the aisles and there are new variants of meat-free products or ones not sourcing animal-derived ingredients, popping up everywhere.

The market research group and insight provider, Kantar Worldpanel consider the UK’s meat-free market to be worth £310 million which is worth tapping into. Mintel who are also market researchers, consider meat-free sales to have risen by 22% between 2013 and 2018. In there eyes the value in meat-free brands is over twice that of Kantar Worldwide a an estimated £780 million. Mintel think the market is forecast to rise by a further 44% by 2023. These figures must be considerably greater now in the UK at the beginning of 2019. There must be similar increases throughout Europe and certainly in the USA. 

Many of the own-label retailers launched their vegan/vegetarian ranges in 2018. Waitrose, the UK retailer at the high-end launched its product range in October 2018 in recognition of the growing meat-free trend. Its party food for example is said to have seen a massive hike in sales of 20% in the first three months following the Autumn launch.

Some notable examples in recent months have been Fish’less’ Fingers which is produced by the UK retailer Waitrose. The food is made from breaded seaweed tofu which has been given a crisp coating and has a ‘subtle’ fish flavour. Clearly the frozen and chilled-food sector is ripe for product development innovations. Waitrose also offer vegan mushroom carbonara which makes considerable use of shitake mushrooms along with soy and vegan cheese. It is possible to enhance the dish further with other vegan ingredients such as Quorn.  They also have vegan vegetable paellas, ravioli, vegan cottage pies, sausages and so on. Likewise, we can find creamy sauces made from cauliflower, celeriac, various plant oils along with coconut and Dijon mustard. That sounds quite an appealing combination anyway let alone its vegan credentials.

Private labelled brands are also flying the flag. Beyond meat is releasing its Beyond Burger into the UK marketplace with a tie up with the UK retailer Tesco. It already offers its burgers for the vegan in the pub chain All-Bar-One.

Impossible Foods in the USA produces a flagship product, ‘The Impossible Burger’. The idea is to tackle the ultimate carnivore’s food with a soy-based meat-free burger. It uses the ingredient soy leghaemoglobin. The US Food and Drug administration (USFDA) considers the food safe to consume by concluding the ingredient complies with their food safety regulations by giving it GRAS status. GRAS (‘Generally Recognised As Safe’) is a status given to ingredients which have passed the USA food safety tests. Impossible Foods submitted a 1000+ page dossier for assessment for the FDA to work on. Perhaps significantly for many is that it passes the allergen status. Soy is a declared an allergen in its own right but soy leghaemoglobin has a low risk of allergencity.

One of the products that FoodWrite has been looking at is pozole which is a Mexican dish that can rightly claim to vegan-friendly and certainly gluten-free. Pozole is a dish based on soaking dried whole corn kernels or hominy in lime juice. It is simmered for a few hours and then chillis and spices are added to produce a soup of exceptional flavour. You can keep it vegan by adding vegetables but those of us who love meat will also add chicken and seafood so there is great versatility in this type of dish. It certainly brings out a certain flavour which is unique but wholly consistent with Mexican cooking.

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