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Don’t think you need vegan options on your menu? Well, you may need to think again.
Five years ago, many of us thought veganism was a myth. That it was another “trend” that would come and go, just as quickly as charcoal ice cream.
But these days, the demand for vegan-friendly meals and beverages has never been higher; leaving restaurants around the globe scrambling for menu inspiration. But what exactly does it mean to offer vegan-friendly options?
Veganism is a lifestyle that excludes the use of all animal-related products, such as food, clothing and accessories. Commonly, vegan diets contain whole foods that are processed to various extents, such as the meat and dairy substitutes.
A vegan diet can include:
Veganism is growing by the day. Not just in Australia, but on a global scale – resulting in venues across the world reassessing their current menu offering.
Some may say the rise in veganism has been driven by social media, and you can argue that is true. Because before social media, it was difficult for people to hear about veganism, its messaging and its purpose.
Now, social media has provided individuals with a platform to learn about veganism and alternative options available, indirectly influencing people’s dietary habits. A recent study by the National Nutritional Survey has found that 2% of Australians have now converted to a vegan diet, estimating at approximately 500,000 people.
A Roy Morgan study has also reported that 2.5 million Australians – 12.1% of the population – are now following a diet that was either all or almost all vegetarian.
And when looking at veganism on a global level, Australia is currently the second most popular nation for vegans, sitting behind the UK. A recent report by Chefs Pencil also discovered that the popularity of veganism is at an all-time high, with veganism now twice as popular as it was just five years ago, showcasing that there’s no sign of slowing down.
“We can see meat consumption overall is stagnant,” IBISWorld senior industry analyst, James Caldwell recently told news.com.au. And to meet the rising demand of vegan consumers, there has also been a rise in vegan-friendly products hitting the market.
The most recent Global New Products Database (GNPD) report identified an increase in the number of products carrying a vegan label. This year, 8.7% of new products that have hit the Australian market have been labelled with a vegan claim.
This figure is up from 5.9% compared to 2016. A vegan claim refers to packaging that is clearly labelled a vegan product or one that contains no animal ingredients.
Offering vegan menu options presents you with an opportunity to demonstrate innovation and forward-thinking to your target market. It also assists to broaden your customer base.
And to stay relevant to the rising hunger for vegan dishes, exclusively vegan venues are opening in cities across the country. Yulli’s is one of the original vegan restaurants in Sydney and it is a go-to place for those seeking a vegan meal.
At Yullis, they present vegan meals with a twist – a fusion of South-East Asian and Mediterranean. Thanks to their distinct flavour-offering, the venue has been able to set themselves apart from regular vegan-inspired restaurants and break the stereotype of blend vegetable offerings.
The popular venue has made its mark in the industry thanks to their famous Korean fried broccolini with sticky chilli sauce, toasted coconut and crushed almond dish. While their sticky date and banana pudding with salted caramel sauce and coconut ice cream dessert have become a must-have for guests (vegan or non-vegan).
Down the road Gigi Pizzeria in Newtown, Sydney has also been making waves after completely transforming their pre-existing venue to become 100% vegan-friendly after a decade of trading. At the time of the shift in the offering, owner and pizzaiolo Marco Mattino told Broadsheet “it was something that I had to do, whether I believed it was going to do well or not”.
He explained: “I didn’t think it was right to use unethical ingredients. [This has now] allowed us to have different pizzas on our menu that you won’t find at other pizzerias.”
Marco admitted he received some hesitation from customers, explaining “people freaked out” when they heard he was taking the meat and cheese off the menu. “People just hadn’t thought about how many different combinations and how many beautiful things there are to use that don’t derive from animals,” he said.
And despite previously being a traditional wood-fired pizzeria, the move has paid off for Marco and his team, with the restaurant becoming busier than ever before. Plant-based meals have also become a hit in Queensland’s capital of Brisbane with several vegan-only venues opening their doors.
When it comes to a vegan breakfast offering, Brisbane locals cannot go past Fundie’s Food Cafe. The venue has switched the original big brekky option for a vegan version, loaded with sautéed mushrooms, oven-roasted tomato, wilted baby spinach, avocado, organic scrambled tofu and beans served with sourdough and a vegan smoothie.
Grassfed have also placed themselves on the map of vegan hotspots, thanks for their famous burgers. Also located in Brisbane, the venue has kept their menu simple with only six main, five side and four dessert options.
From a classic burger with a vegan patty and cheese, caramelised onion, tomato, lettuce, pickles and aioli mustard sauce to their herbivore burger with falafel, apple slaw, sesame cheese, The Fermentier turmeric kraut, red onion, fresh mint, alfalfa and aioli and their famous loaded biscoff dessert; their menu has it all. Further down the Australian east-coast in Melbourne, Victoria, Shu has been labelled the “most unique vegan restaurant” thanks to their serving of Sichuan dishes in a boldly colourful restaurant space.
And to ensure they remain ahead of the curve during lockdowns, the venue has developed vegan picnic baskets, which contains 12 vegan dishes including a vegan cheese platter, chargrilled shiitake steak skewers, vegan duck dumplings and raw blueberry cashew cheesecake. But it’s not just the local players making a mark in the world of veganism.
Burger chain Grill’d have also amended their menu offering to include not only a vegan option but also a low-carb, vegetarian and gluten-free range, in a bid to cater to a larger audience. According to reports, the additional menu options has been a successful move for the hospitality-giant, with their annual revenue increasing to over $200M.
On the Mexican front, Zambrero and Guzman Y Gomez have also added plant-based options to their menus with the introduction of vegan cheese and plant-based meat alternatives. Domino’s Pizza, Hungry Jacks, MacDonald’s and Crust Pizza have also followed suit with a range of plant-based alternatives now available to patrons.
And during a time where many restaurants have had to close their doors during the global health pandemic, a study conducted by HappyCow revealed there has been an increase in the number of vegan restaurants opening across the country. This simply showcases the need and want for vegan options within the market.
Having vegan options on your menu has become a necessity. But thinking of ways to bring to life can be difficult.
In an interview with Goodman Fielder Food Service, Sydney-based chef David Lee explained research is a must when it comes to building a vegan menu. “Always look to industry leaders, and lots of overseas restaurants,” he advised.
“I was at Hyde in the UK, a really good restaurant in Piccadilly and they have a separate vegan menu which you can research, which helps provide you with really good ideas. These overseas restaurants are a great source of inspiration.”
He added that chefs should also direct their attention towards cuisines that are naturally vegetable orientated. “A lot of the cuisines throughout Pakistani, India, Sri Lanka and even the Mediterranean cuisines are very vegetable focused,” and they can easily be altered to fit a vegan menu.
That’s why Chef Adam Khazaal has created five vegan dishes that can be utilised across your entrée, main and dessert menu. To take the stress and worry out of your planning, check out the step-by-step recipes below:
In conclusion, there is no sign of the movement towards veganism slowing down. Meaning, it’s more important than ever before for you to add vegan options to your pre-existing menu to ensure you maintain your clientele as their taste buds continue to change.
With so much fresh produce and vegan-friendly products on the market, the opportunity to develop vegan meals has never been easier. All it takes is some research, guidance and persistence.