World Vegan Day: how businesses can help more carnivores go vegan
Reposted from my article on The Guardian
The term vegan has been around for 70 years and its long list of health and environmental benefits has not been lost on some of the most influential people in the world: Ghandi, Al Gore and Bill Clinton, to name a few. Never one to pass on a growing trend, Hollywood has seen the number of celebrity vegans increase exponentially – even Mike Tyson has reportedly turned vegan to reap the health benefits.
The United Nations has urged more people to try out a plant-based diet to help reduce the burden that humans place upon the planet (and on our waistlines) but, despite all this, only 2% of Brits claim to be vegetarian and a mere 1% classify themselves as strict vegans. If we know we should be eating less meat, what steps can businesses take to help us transition to a meatless diet?
Make vegan wins clearer on packaging
Although some supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s are starting to include the golden phrase “suitable for vegans” on their products, not all of them do. Providing clear labeling will stop the mammoth task that newly-fledged vegans have to go through of scouring minute print on packaging looking for animal-related ingredients.
The perpetual question all vegans are harassed with is where do we get our protein from? It would do us a favour if companies could highlight the amount of protein available in meat alternatives. A 100g (3.5oz) serving of seitan (also known as wheat gluten) has 75g of protein – over three times that of steak and with one-tenth of the fat. Businesses would do well to have these health benefits stamped prominently on the front of meat-free dishes to educate the non-believers that vegans can get protein too.
Put vegan options on the menu
Restaurants are finally understanding that not everyone is satisfied with a dinner laced with saturated animal fats but we still have a long way to go until a vegan’s eating out options are equal to the choices that omnivores enjoy. So here’s some advice for chefs: we don’t just eat salad and we’d really appreciate it if you could find inspiration in one of the many free, online vegan recipe websites (VegWeb,Mouthwatering Vegan, Chef Chloe and Vegan Recipe Club) to provide at least one animal-free dish on the menu.
Target vegan advertising at carnivores
If we want Joe Bloggs to go vegan, we need to appeal to him, not just to the bunny huggers. Too many vegan food adverts are lumped under the organic or sustainable umbrella – we need to start using colours other than green when marketing these products to the general public. Restaurateurs and marketeers alike can take inspiration from the American-owned, Mexican fast food restaurant Chipotle’s new “vegans and carnivores unite” advertising campaign, which attempts to lure carnivores towards their tofu burritos in the US. Booja Booja is another example of a brand getting it right, producing high-quality chocolate products that rival the likes of Hotel Chocolat without having to boast about its vegan credentials.
Develop a vegan app for that
If you’re worried about how to do your online shop, many supermarket apps like the Whole Foods app let you search for the term vegan in the groceries section, which results in all the hundreds of vegan products that it has available. One app I’ve yet to find, however, is one that tracks your nutrition. For those converting to a vegan diet (and even for vegan veterans who are worried about lacking certain nutrients) it would be useful if there was an app that would let you enter the food you had eaten that day and it could calculate the nutritional content, along with providing suggestions of vegan foods to find any missing nutrients.
Companies have a huge power to change the consumer market – think of the influence of brands like Coca-Cola and Apple globally. For the good of the environment and our health we must challenge businesses to utilise this power to market vegan products and make meat-free diets easier for the average omnivorous citizen to adopt.
Niki Rust is PhD student at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent. She is a blogger and conservationist.