There has been a dramatic move in the last 6 months toward consumers demanding plant-based food. In this blog post, we discuss the differences between vegan and being plant-based and debate if, why and how much your business should adapt your offerings to these new trends.
Is it vegan or is it plant-based?
We see many people and businesses refer to food and dishes as being vegan, although this can be misleading. Whilst vegan food doesn’t contain meat or any ingredients derived from animals, it must also be cooked and prepared using separate kitchen tools and cooking equipment such as refrigeration units, grills, ovens and other storage facilities from those used for non-vegan ingredients.
In other words, if a ‘vegan’ meal is prepared using the same tools that are used to prepare or cook meat, then the meal is not considered to be vegan. Different tools and appliances must be used if the meal offered is to be truly classed as vegan.
For many people, this distinction isn’t a big issue, but catering companies branding their meals as vegan must take the right steps to ensure they conform to these standards. Otherwise, dishes need to be branded as plant-based rather than vegan.
Going forward in this article, to keep it simple, we will now use the term ‘plant-based’ to include vegan and vegetarian food.
Should you offer plant-based dishes?
Our opinion is yes, but consideration should be given to how far you should go in promoting your business as offering plant-based meals.
According to a survey conducted in 2018 by the Vegan Society and Mintel, there were over 600,000 vegans in the UK. The market is continuing to grow and the opportunities this creates should be enough to convince you that your business needs to offer plant-based meals. Added to this, there is a view that eating plant-based foods is healthier and better for the environment in many ways.
Many businesses have decided to differentiate themselves by offering ether a large range of plant-based options, such as Whole Foods UK or by only focusing on vegan or plant-based food. There was a time when companies could create their own niche and stand-out from other caterers by doing this, but that opportunity is shrinking as more and more businesses are offering plant-based food.
How far you go depends on your business brand. If you want to position your brand as being heavily involved or invested in caring for the environment or providing healthy modern-day foods, then it’s important to offer a strong line up of plant-based solutions for customers.
Where are you heading?
There’s no right or wrong answer here. It’s easy for anyone to advise that you should adopt a plant-based policy, excluding meat, because that’s the latest trend, and it’s healthy and sustainable. But there’s also the case for allowing people to make their own decisions about what they want to eat. Providing a choice rather than limiting the options.
While the consumption of plant-based food is on the rise, there is still a large number of consumers that love and eat meat. There’s also a question of how growers and supply chains will cope as demand for fruit and vegetables grow. Sourcing locally is important but certain ingredients aren’t available in the UK during the winter months and many ingredients have to be imported from warmer countries. Importing food increases the carbon footprint and while it might be good for our health, it’s not necessarily good for the planet.
Another consideration is pricing. As demand increases, prices tend to go up, making popular foods and ingredients more expensive. Having variation in what you offer will be more beneficial to your business by achieving a balance of offerings that are good for the environment yet healthy and profitable for your business.
Whatever your decision, make sure that it’s in line with your brand promise and that there’s always a focus on offering ethical, great-tasting food. Don’t be afraid to test out new ingredients and adapt to the latest trends. You might not be ready to re-brand or offer only plant-based foods but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t in the future.
Contact our plant based food consultants at Ramsay Todd Consultancy