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  • Writer's pictureMeyrick Consulting

Is Veganism such a saintly endeavour?

This week I talk carbon emissions, Magnum ice creams and fightbacks

Plant-based innovations are a hot topic

Looking at the January edition of Tesco’ and ASDA’s inhouse magazines, it is obvious that everything I’ve been writing about over the past three years has come to pass. For example, more than 500,000 participants signed up for Veganuary’s 2021 challenge, a 25% increase on 2020. It might be fair to say that veganism has probably passed its tipping point.

People ask me if eating more plants is just a trend

I reply that I feel it’s a shift in the way we think about how our food is produced, what’s good for us and the impact on the world. When you consider that (according to Ipsos from 2016) 3.25% of UK citizens aged 15 and older “never eat meat of any form, as part of their diet.” this generation has probably been scared to death by climate change and veganism is their response.

Photo: Ralph Kayden

Plant-based food innovation fits into our concerns about the planet

Also, our move away from fossil fuels, the need for more care in food production practices and a real developing respect for just how the animals people eat are being reared and slaughtered. Yes, it’s been interesting to read the argument that eating animals belongs to the past, especially when we consider how hungry they are for natural resources. Animals need a considerable amount more water and land than vegetables as a simple starter. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions after all. That is more than all transportation emissions added together. As we all battle to lower our carbon footprint in an attempt to reverse, or at least halt climate change, it’s clear that eating fewer portions of meat could lower the figure by 46% according to WWF.

However, there’s an awful lot to cover when you analyse carbon footprint statistics across the whole supply chain

It’s complex and important to consider everything from methane emissions to pesticides; husbandry practices to processing; fertilisers to cooking wastage rates, disposal and so on. You can dig even deeper and ask questions about the difference between grass fed and corn-fed cows for example. Sometimes it really does feel like lies, lies and damn statistics.

Photo: George Evans

Also, we have often calculated carbon statistics through food weight

Yet who eats a kilogram of cheese in an everyday basis? Don’t ask me that question at Christmas, however! Some researchers have suggested the food’s nutritional value would make more sense. I guess what I am saying, is that it’s easy to get carried away with veganism and stop listening to all perspectives. The Carbon Watchdog website is very interesting on this topic.

However, it’s not so long ago that that the notion of a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle filled many with dread

The Vegan Society stated just over two years ago that there were approximately 600,000 vegans in Great Britain (1.16% of the population). This was an approximate 300% increase since from 2014, when 150,000, or 0.25% reported to be vegan. With Gen Alpha (those born after 2010) being on track to be the most transformative age group ever, what happens next will be fascinating.

Photo: Patrik Gupta

The rest of us have all been used to a hugely varied diet and it appeared swapping to plant-based meant variety vanished

This is not blatantly, not true. There has been so much plant-based innovation that even big brands are embracing the concept. You can buy vegan ice cream in the Magnum range. This is a Belgian brand owned by Unilever, of course. However, originally it was developed and made by Frisko, a Danish outfit from Aarhus.

If Unilever are on board then we know it’s mainstream

No doubt many more ‘niche’ brands will be swallowed whole by this Dutch/UK group. They own Hellman’s too that now produces a vegan mayonnaise. Household names like Ben & Jerry’s, Walls, Bird’s Eye, Chicago Town are lining up against some pretty exciting newcomers. If you are looking for plant food innovation then Wicked Kitchen, The Vegetarian Butcher, Squeaky Bean, Off The Eaten Path, Tofurky, Beyond Meat, V Bites, Vivera Fulfil all hit that sweet spot of innovation, taste and variety. They join long term stalwarts, Linda McCartney Foods and Quorn and it has to be said, there’s never been a better time to eat less meat.

What is clear is that there has been and will continue to be an enormous amount of plant -based innovation

This is going to require business critical hires to help companies move forward and retain their competitive edge. By bringing new products to market and having the right staff to achieve this business strategy it will control costs and increase profitability. This is where a specialist recruiter is essential.

Yet, there are always two sides to every story

The meat and dairy industries are not going to roll over and acquiesce without a fight. They have set up the AHDB (A

griculture and Horticulture Development Board to encourage people to eat more dairy and meat. Their “Eat Balanced’ TV campaign that cost £1.5 million is a response to the drop in meat and dairy sales and the general negative attitude expressed towards them. Photo: Jenny Hill

Susie Stannard, AHDB’s consumer insight manager, said “Our research has shown about one-in-five people are waverers and this is likely down to them seeing some negative news about red meat or dairy, either from an animal welfare point of view or the environment which has become a big factor in recent years,”

All I can say is that expect more debate to come in 2021 and beyond but meanwhile I’ve grown rather fond of my Higgidy Miso Mushroom Vegan rolls and they are calling to me right now! Have a positive week ahead.

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