5 ways the vegan diet has changed in a decade

Veganism kicked off in 1806, when a few pioneering Europeans decided to reject eggs and dairy on ethical grounds. The word ‘vegan’ was coined in the 1940s by a group of ‘non-dairy vegetarians’, effectively starting what is now The Vegan Society.

We’ve seen loads of developments in the vegan diet over the last decade, with new foods, new recipes and new attitudes. We ask veteran vegans what changes they’ve seen.

1. Vegans are no longer seen as ‘hippies’

“The image of veganism is undergoing the most radical change in its history, while shedding some tired old stereotypes”, says Dominika Piasecka, spokeswoman for The Vegan Society. Veganism is not portrayed as unusual any more; instead it’s easy and accessible, she says.

“Vegans are no longer perceived as ‘hippies’”, agrees vegan chef and author Katy Beskow. She puts this down to an increased knowledge of the diet and its environmental and health benefits. She also points to the ease of getting vegan and veggie food today.

2. There are vegan foods everywhere!

“12 years ago, when I became vegan, everything required a lot more forward planning. You could never have bought a pre-made vegan sandwich or salad”, says Amy Elisabeth, a vegan fitness trainer. Nowadays, vegan ‘cheese’, ‘milk’ and ‘meat’ are widely available and you can walk into a supermarket and have your pick of products.

Luckily for vegans like Amy, almost one in six food products launched in the UK in 2018 had a no-animal-ingredients claim. In the same year, the UK launched more vegan products than any other country.

Meat substitutes saw sales grow by 451 percent in Europe between 2014 to 2018. A host of controversial veggie ‘meat products’, such as the ‘bleeding’ burger, has hit the shelves.

“This meat-replicating feature certainly makes the concept of meat-free foods more newsworthy and intriguing for consumers, which – combined with health credentials, ethical claims and environmental considerations – creates a compelling proposition”, says Alyson Parkes, a research analyst at Mintel. She adds the bleeding aspect of the burger makes it highly Instagrammable. In fact, some writers have credited Instagram with increasing the popularity of veganism in younger people. There are 84 million vegan hashtags.

Almost a quarter of Brits say they drink plant-based milk alternatives, and they’re particularly popular among 16–24-year-olds. Other dairy alternatives, such as ‘yoghurt’, ‘cream’ and ‘cheese’, are gaining popularity fast.

3. You can tuck into vegan fast food and junk food

It’s increasingly possible to eat a vegan diet high in junk food. “Treats and puddings used to be off the menu; the tastiest junk food you could eat was crisps,” says Amy Elisabeth. “These days it would be possible to eat only fast food and junk food and still be vegan.”

She says it’s nice to have the option, but these unhealthier products should be seen as a treat. “I think some people are of the opinion that just because it’s vegan, it’s healthy, which isn’t true any more”, she says.

4. There are lots of vegan recipes online and in cookbooks

The supply of vegan recipes is greater than ever before. There are literally thousands of vegan cookbooks.

Katy says the increase of “vegan recipes, tips, magazines plus cookbooks” has contributed to the “realisation that vegan cooking is actually very easy and economical”.

Social media platform Pinterest reported pins of ‘vegan desserts’ increased by 329 percent and ‘plant protein’ by 417 percent in 2017 alone.

5. There's a vegan option on the menu

“These days, I'm quite surprised when there isn’t a vegan option on a menu”, says Amy Elisabeth, “even if there isn’t... they will know what vegans eat and be able to prepare something”. She remembers visiting a barbecue restaurant 12 years ago: “When I said I didn’t want any meat and asked for whatever came with the meat, expecting a plate of salad, I got chips, pasta and rice!”.

Orders of vegan takeaway meals grew 388 percent in the UK between 2016 and 2018 and they are now our fastest growing takeaway choice. Vegan food served up at festivals has also popularised the lifestyle.

The future of veganism

One day, you might be able to buy meat that has been grown in a lab. Some predict that by 2040, 35 percent of the global population will be consuming this ‘clean’ meat. Is it suitable for vegans? We’ll let you decide.

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