From DIY breakfast kits to healthy freezer meals and meat-free delis, the future is looking green…
2020 was a year of change for many people – and their diets. Research released by Nielsen reveals more than 13 million Brits cut down on their meat consumption during the UK’s first lockdown of 2020 – and manufacturers, restaurants and supermarkets are responding accordingly. So, what does 2021 have in store for us vegetarians and vegans? From mock-meat to freezer meals, tofu to tempeh, read on to discover the trends which look set to play a big role during the year ahead.
Words: Kayleigh Rattle, Journalist
Proving gut health is more than simply a passing fad – products which promote gut health were tipped to be a top trend for 2020 – increasingly more vegetarians, vegans and flexitarians are now choosing to incorporate more gut health-friendly products such as kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut into their diets. So what’s all the fuss about? “Cultured or fermented foods are those which have been transformed by the action of good bacteria,” explains Nicola Peters, founder of vegan and vegetarian-friendly kimchis, The Cultured Collective (theculturedcollective.co.uk). “When left unpasteurised and ‘live’, they provide a natural source of probiotic bacteria that can help promote a healthy gut which can have positive impacts not only on digestive health, but mental health too.” The flavour of such products could be a driving factor behind their increasing popularity, too. Naturally tangy and zingy, thanks to the natural processes of fermentation, products such as kimchi and sauerkraut can really enhance meat-free meals. The Cultured Collective recommend stirring them into soups and stews for added flavour, or adding to sandwiches and salads.
According to research company Meticulous Research, the global meat substitute market is expected to reach an astounding $17.5 billion by 2027. And, as you’ve probably noticed, there’s now no shortage of meat alternatives available in supermarkets and restaurants, from meat-free burgers to sausages, nuggets, deli items and more. Not only that, but specialist counters – dedicated to meat alternatives – could well become more commonplace, too. One such example is the newly-opened Rudy’s Vegan Butchers (rudysvegan.com). Located on Upper Street in London’s Islington,
it’s the city’s first dedicated vegan butchers, and it stocks a range of meat-free delicacies including ‘charcuterie’ (plant-based smoked ham, pepperoni and pastrami) as well as vegan ribs, burgers, lobster, bacon and pâté. For people not living in London, Rudy’s is also selling DIY home kits, offering the chance to recreate vegan versions of popular dishes such as a ‘dirty burger’ and ‘broccoli mac ‘n’ cheeze’, which are available for nationwide delivery.
From soups to curries and even scrambled ‘eggs’ and cheesecake, tofu – made from soybeans – can be used in all manner of sweet and savoury dishes. It’s no wonder, then, that according to data from Nielsen, tofu is the fastest-growing product in the meat-free sector. On top of being versatile, tofu holds many nutritional benefits, not least being a source of protein. With tofu now accounting for approximately half of meat-free ingredient sales, it looks set to continue to be a big trend for 2021. Another soybean-based ingredient and meat alternative to look out for this year is tempeh. Traditionally made in Indonesia, tempeh is crafted from fermented soybeans, and boasts a nutty flavour and firm texture, making it ideal for dishes such as stir-fries and curries. Like tofu, it’s also packed with protein – so definitely one to look out for in 2021.
With more people working from home and, as a consequence, cooking breakfast, we can expect to see a bigger focus on breakfasts in 2021 – from both retailers and consumers alike. As such, many bricks-and-mortar restaurants have started to diversify their output to now offer takeaways or cook-at-home meal kits, with breakfast also being included within this. One such restaurant offering a meat-free breakfast meal kit is Bombay cafe-inspired Dishoom, which has just launched a vegan version of its popular sausage naan roll. The kit includes vegan sausages developed by chef Neil Rankin, naan dough balls and tomato and chilli jam, plus ingredients to make Masala chai, and is available for delivery nationwide (£16, dishoom.com) Now that’s something worth getting out of bed for!
One of the challenges of spending more time in our homes is resisting the urge to devour the contents of our snack cupboards in one fell swoop. Handily, a wide range of healthy vegan snacks are starting to become available in the shops and supermarkets, with all manner of interesting, flavoursome and most importantly, healthy ingredients at their core. From pea proteins and hemp crisps to lentil and rice cakes, look out for ‘healthier’ takes on traditional snacks such as crisps this year.
As well as breakfast, it’s thought that 38% more meals are eaten at home per week, compared with the same time last year (Kantar Worldpanel, April 2020). One such increase has been in frozen food sales, with vegan frozen food reportedly driving this trend. Brands such as Pep Kitchen, Cook and ByRuby are three such examples of outlets who are creating healthy, vegan and vegetarian pre-packaged frozen meals. With life getting ever-busy and 2021 already throwing a unique set of challenges at us, we can only expect this reliance on healthy, prepared food to increase throughout 2021.
If recent launches and accolades are anything to go by, large food takeaway outlets will continue to roll out new and innovative veggie and vegan options well into 2021. While Greggs’ vegan sausage rolls and steak bakes – which feature Quorn as its ‘meat-free’ base – are some of the standout successes in recent years, they’re not the only outlet to enjoy increased popularity and sales. Other popular options include KFC’s Quorn fillet burger, Papa Johns’ The Vegan Works pizza which features vegan sausage, jackfruit ‘pepperoni’, mushrooms, peppers, onions and olives and McDonald’s Vegetable Deluxe, which contains red pesto veggie goujons.
More to explore…
Derek Sarno, Director of Plant Based Innovation at Tesco, predicts 2021 will be the year for vegan cheese, with sales of the product growing by 52.5% in 2020 alone.
Mushrooms have long been celebrated for their vitamin D-containing properties, and the New York Times has touted them to be a big wellness trend for 2021 too, citing Reishi, Lion’s Mane and Chaga as varieties to look out for.
Food retailer Whole Foods predicts the popularity of these protein-packed pulses will continue to rise in 2021. Look out for more products and recipes being made with chickpea flour and aquafaba (chickpea brine).
2021 trends: verdict
From DIY restaurant meal kits to freezer foods and fast-food favourites, one clear trend emerging for 2021 is that of convenience. While we may all be spending more time at home currently, many of us are still time-poor, and are looking for meat-free products that on top of making our lives that little bit easier, also taste delicious. That said, health also continues to be a big focus for many in 2021, with gut health-improving products such as krauts, kombucha and kimchi leading the way alongside nutrient and protein-rich foods such as mushrooms and tofu. While a lot of 2021 may still feel very much up in the air, one thing we can be sure of is there are plenty of ways to add variety and flavour to our diets this year, as all these trends reveal.
Please note: not every product mentioned in this article carries a Vegetarian Society Approved trademark. When shopping, look for the Vegetarian Society Approved vegetarian and vegan trademarks to make your life easier.
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