Veganism is cool. Many that converted years ago may not have thought they’d live to see the day, but it happened. Vegan food is available in major stores, brands have adapted their range and meat-eaters are changing their habits. The reasons behind this vary from the health-conscious to the environmentally-aware. What is more interesting is the softening in attitudes where meat-eaters will accommodate vegans. 2020 has seen change on levels not seen before and there are high hopes that things will continue in this direction.
2020 was set to be the year of the plant-based revolutions and, so far, it has delivered.
January now brings us Veganuary each year. 31 days where we can forget about the meat-fuelled holiday feasts and detox with some plant-based meals and no dairy. Reasons for signing up vary. 43% of participants did so for animal rights reasons, 39% for health reasons and 10% for environmental reasons. Veganuary could have been the end of it all for the year. We can probably all name someone in our social circle that did their bit but were secretly counting down the meat-free days. Still, many of us kept going. In one way or another, we have embraced plant-based options.
This is where 2020 has been such a success. There hasn’t been the strict approach some people will have feared where you’re 100% vegan or you’re nothing. There is a more accessible side to plant-based diets that goes beyond the stereotypes of veganism. This also means we all have different ways of making a change. This year, it seems that any small change is enough if it is in the right direction. It is easier for hopeful converts to step over into the greener side.
The Vegan Society released some interesting stats about attitudes to veganism and plant-based diets in the UK.
51% of those asked were happy to see vegan food in shops and restaurants. While this sounds low, especially as only 43% of people said they respected vegans for their lifestyle, this is actually an improvement. Vegans are closer to living in a society where they won’tbe ridiculed for their choices because so many others now share similar views. In fact, 56% of the adults asked claimed to practice vegan buying behaviours. This might not be an active choice to purchase and eat vegan meals themselves. It could be parents buying in vegan-friendly food for their adult children. It’s a gesture that is greatly appreciated.
Furthermore, 19% of those surveyed have cut down on meat consumers and 13% will choose meat-free or dairy-free meals in restaurants now. One surprise stat is that only 19% claim to check toiletries for labels about animal testing.
It is also easier for brands to market new products that are meat-free rather than strictly vegan.
There is something out there in the supermarket aisles now for everyone. With that said, a surprising number of brands have created products that are 100% vegan. One of the best examples of this has to be Ben and Jerry’s. They went all out with their vegan range to prove that ice cream can be delicious and dairy-free at the same time. Granted, the price could still reflect that of normal ice-cream, but vegans and those limiting their dairy intake are still grateful. Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Chunky Monkey, and Peanut Butter and Cookies lead the pack, with other flavours sure to follow.
Of course, it isn’t all about ice cream. Vegan-friendly food has been a hit with foodies for a while now, they just didn’t always realise that it was vegan. For example, fermented foods have been a must-have in the health-food world for a while. Kombucha drinks, kimchi and tempeh are great examples of how to make fermentation cool. Well, they are also vegan. Then there are all the veggie chips in the frozen food aisles and the kitchens of those that want to move away from potato carbs. With the right oils, your tasty sweet potato wedges, parsnip chips and carrot fries are vegan.
We can”t ignore social media role in making veganism accessible and cool.
The Independent stated that Google searches for the word vegan increased in line with those for Instagram. What this suggests is that not only are people talking openly about their vegan diets, they are sharing their beautiful dishes and #vegan tags on that platform. There is no doubt that vegan food is appealing on the eye and these images dispel old misconceptions about rabbit food. Other trends, such as #MeatFreeMonday, have also played their part here.
So where do we go from there? How does the plant-based revolution continue to build in 2021?
There are definitely major improvements in attitudes and options for those looking to cut out meat and dairy. But, there are still issues. One study states that 91% of vegans struggle with takeaway meal options. This has to be a potential goldmine for the restaurants willing to adapt their menus.
Accessibility to food also raises the issue of growing our own vegetables and plant proteins at home. Growing our own veg might be a good healthcare decision if we are to believe the Imperial College London study about needing 10 portions of fruit and veg a day. Vegans have the upper hand here. Still, a new vegetable patch with some beans, peas and other protein-rich options wouldn’t hurt.
The way that you embrace plant-based food and veganism really is up to you now.
This year, we have greater freedom than ever to label ourselves with the diet choice that fits. Those that want to go full-throttle into veganism can do so with less stigma. But, there is also more room for the pescetarians, vegetarians and flexitarians out there. You can cut out as much or as little as you want, grow your own food, and share it all on social media. The best part is that we have only just got started. A health-conscious, post-covid world in 2021 is the perfect place for a more accepting society with greater choice.