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A recent article by Forbes suggested that 2019 is set to be the Year of the Vegan, with Unilever’s acquisition of Dutch company The Vegetarian Butcher, the increasing popularity of vegan fast-food company Vivera, and Beyond Meat’s growing international market being cited as proof that the vegan trend is set to explode.
Closer to home, we spoke to several advocates of the vegan lifestyle to gain some insight into what South Africans can expect in the years ahead.
Lauren Greve of The Bespoke Artichoke explained that while the Vegan Society was formed during the Second World War, it is only in the last decade that they have really seen the numbers in the vegan community grow.
Millennials are a driving force behind this growth, but it is not limited to this group alone, she told us, citing social media as a vehicle in terms of educating the public about where their food comes from, and climate change and health as motivating factors when switching to a plant-based diet. “With any paradigm shift, critical mass needs to be reached, I believe that is what is happening right now” she says.
“Anything you can do vegan do better” – Irene Margolis
Irene Margolis of Irene’s Gourmet agrees that veganism is growing worldwide, and for most people making this choice it is very serious. “Unlike trends in general, choosing plant based is a lifestyle choice, not just a fad,” she told us. “I believe we are only seeing the beginning of this; more and more people are making the change every day.”
“As a vegan food product developer I think that my commitment to veganism inspires me, and other people in the same space, to develop products that can replace and be as good or better than non-vegan products,” she says. “I think we can expect a lot more variety in general in the vegan space.”
‘Beefing’ up the vegan meat industry
The Beyond Burger has already arrived on South African soil and while some vegans find the taste too meat-like,” Greve said, “I am a great supporter of the product if it means less cows are maimed and killed. While South African born international brand, Fry’s has sold their meat alternatives locally for several years now, Greve says we have smaller companies in South Africa that produce vegan boerewors and sausages.
“It would be amazing to see their products in mainstream South African stores too.” Herbi Vohr, Urban Vegan and VeggieWors are such brands. VeggieWors founder Lisa Labinjoh creates handmade vegetarian sausages made from lentils, butternut, oats and onions.
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More meaty mushrooms
Charlene, Elma and Lenette of SharLeBel mushroom fame can attest to the growing popularity of meat replacements: in 2018 their capacity to grow enough shiitake mushrooms to meet demand for their mushroom biltong was exhausted and they now outsource to a number of local farmers on the Garden Route, drying 200kg of fresh mushrooms every month.
While their products were originally manufactured for vegans the trio found that around 80% of customers are omnivores. “Our customers consist of food lovers, chefs and health fundi’s,” they revealed.
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You don’t need to hang out at food markets to get your vegan fix. Last year the Mail &Guardian reported on a definite increase in the demand for vegan food products and Garth Tavares, the Cape Town Vegan, shared with us that the vegan trend has begun amounting to quantifiable sales. “Well-known eateries, brands and grocery stores have taken up the challenge to meet this demand,” he said. “It’s clear that the consumer is dictating what they want, and those companies who have foresight are meeting those demands.”
Woolworths has been expanding their vegan ready-meals and snacks in a drive to make “plant-based eating easy, delicious and sustainable” and Checkers recently introduced a mostly vegan range called Simple Truth. Many more are expected to follow suit. “Its only a matter of time before it picks up even more here in South Africa. One only has to look at the increase in South African Vegan Facebook groups and Instagram followers to see the growth. In the recent Veganuary campaign, South Africa boasted sixth place overall for the number of people signing up for the challenge,” Tavares revealed.
Elizabeth Mamacos was interviewed about this story on CapeTalk – one of Cape Town’s best radio stations. LISTEN below.
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
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