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The Clean Conscious Vegan

Veganism has emerged as one of the fastest growing food trends of the last decade, with the number of vegans in Europe doubling in just four years to 2.6million.

Despite today’s vegan diet concepts being adopted as early as 1806, the term ‘vegan’ was only introduced in 1944 and it has taken since then to become a mainstream diet consideration.

 

Many who choose to go vegan do so to support the environment, recognising that opting for plant based options is a far more sustainable way of living and something we should all be more aware of. Climate change is the biggest threat to humanity and food production contributes to a whopping 30% of green-house gas emissions. Closely aligned to this is the driver for the prevention of animal cruelty. This does not only cover the ‘meat’ aspect, but animal exploitation extends to the production of dairy products too, which surprisingly is often overlooked. However, a vegan diet can also support a healthier lifestyle and is said to directly reduce the rate of cardiovascular disease and strokes.

The main motivators for me to become vegan are the environmental considerations. After all there is no planet B! I have therefore decided to join thousands of others and take part in the 2021 Veganuary movement.

As a regular meat eater and a huge cheese fanatic, going vegan is a little daunting. I feel almost like I could be giving up all my favourite foods. Can vegan options really act as true meat and dairy replacements? And will I still be able to have all of the recommended micronutrients such as vitamin B12 and iron? I really should have more confidence. I am after all a R&D ingredient technologist and have been part of some ground-breaking vegan developments. Who would have thought vegan jerky would be able to match the taste and texture of one of the meatiest snacks or that vegan cheese fondue would still celebrate and comfort in all the right ways. The advances in vegan food development have been phenomenal.

 

It was only a few years ago that vegan substitutes earned bad reviews for being too grainy, dry, bland and dissatisfying. Now, this could not be further from the truth. Thanks to continued investment from food developers and manufacturers, vegan products have surpassed all expectations and the drive for even greater innovation continues at a rapid pace.

 

Not surprisingly, big brand names, supermarkets, fast food chains and even celebrities have all joined in the vegan revolution, releasing 1,000’s of new vegan products into the marketplace in the last year alone. With an assumption from many that vegan products are naturally healthy, food manufacturers have been under enormous pressure to ensure that healthy nutritional profiles are maintained and that natural ingredients are used wherever possible.

 

So one of the most surprising and talked about vegan product releases was the Greggs vegan sausage roll. Not known for their nutritional content, could a vegan sausage roll really satisfy true sausage roll cravings? Many have said that it does and it opened the floodgates to other vegan retail and food service products.

 

Knowing that as a vegan you do not have to miss out on sausages, burgers, yoghurts or ice-cream is a huge bonus. Today you can easily find treats such as sea salt caramel Magnums, Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts, Dominoes pizzas, chicken free burgers from KFC and even vegan breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks. On balance, going vegan might not be such an adjustment. Though with all these treats so readily available, maintaining the healthy aspect of a vegan diet might be more challenging! Having said that, the support for wholesome plant-based options sees no sign of dwindling either. With endless product releases from supermarkets and the continued stream of inspiration on social media, there are more options available now than ever before.

I am still to be convinced by the overall nutritional profile of a vegan diet and although some manufacturers are already fortifying their vegan products with micronutrient supplements, it will be interesting to see how my body adapts to this and if I can sustain a healthy balance with homecooked vegan meals. I have already invested in the Leon Fast Vegan and Bosh cookbooks to help me on my way too.

So far there has not been much change, though I am only a week in! I have already tucked into some fabulous vegan products and have been rather impressed by them. In particular the Marks & Spencer’s Plant Kitchen mac bites, which use a coconut-based cheese to achieve a very nice creamy texture. I would go as far to say that these might be even more moreish than the non-vegan ones. I also have to commend the Wicked Spiced Amazeballs from Tesco, which use a pea protein base to create a lovely juicy, Italian style meatless ball. Both back of pack labels were also nice and concise, indicating that there are no hidden nasties. 

A bit about me: I graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a BSc in Food Nutrition and went on to work for Sensient Flavours and Premier foods. I am now a research and development technologist for Ulrick & Short and have been with the company for almost four years. Committed to the industry I now work in, I am halfway through studying for my MSc in Food Science and Innovation, which has focused significantly of food sustainability. Understanding more about the impact that food manufacture has on the environment has been a key influencer in my decision to take up a vegan diet. I am also a bit of fitness fanatic and will be doing a 100 mile virtual running challenge through January as well.

Emma Walker Development Technologist

Veganuary

 

The Veganuary movement was set up in 2014 by a husband and wife duo from York as part of an initiative to support people who stopped eating animal products in January. The concept now encourages more people to do the same over a 30 day period. Since its formation it has supported millions of people across the world to adopt a more plant-based diet and has inspired thousands of new product innovations.

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