Vote veggie!

As the Vegetarian Society launches its Kinder Food Policy, we find out why more consumers than ever are voting veggie at the checkout.

With National Vegetarian Week coming up fast (May 24-30) now is the time to be making the most of your store’s vegetarian and vegan offer.

And arguably there has never been a better time to promote a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle to your customers. Whether it’s coming from an environmental perspective — the huge pressure on land and resources — or health or animal welfare concerns, meat production and meat eating are under closer scrutiny than ever.

For some years now the growing ranks of meat-avoiders and meat-reducers have been providing the specialist vegetarian food market with their biggest growth constituency. More recently we have been seeing the practical effects of this in the market — and on retailers’ shelves. In short this translates to greater choice (more consumers means higher levels of competition), and better quality products (mainstream consumers expect a similar level of taste experience to the one they are used to).

The retailers’ view
So what does this all mean for health food retailers? Shuba Mayi of vegetarian food retailer Oasis Natural Products in Croydon says the changes of the last few years were clear to see at last month’s Natural & Organic Products Europe. “A few years ago you had to really search out the vegetarian products at trade shows. This has completely changed, and this year at Olympia I found that vegetarian products were in a big majority and were much more clearly marked, making it easier for retailers.”

What other changes and trends has Oasis seen? Adds Mayi: “We’re seeing more younger customers, and particularly younger vegan customers — although sometimes people will use the term to mean that they don’t eat dairy, rather than they are a true vegan. And we’re seeing more people coming in for lunchtime food. Because we offer a really good range of sandwiches — typically 15 different filling options on any one day — we pick up a lot of Croydon’s lunchtime veggie trade. But as much as anything, it’s because we offer something different and tasty. It doesn’t matter whether it’s falafel or veggie sausage, it isn’t cheese!”

Meanwhile at Manchester-based Eighth Day, it’s the store’s deli counter and café that is the entry point for many new customers. Comments Jan Marsh: “The deli is a big success for us — but we work hard at offering a lot of choice. For instance, we’ll often have 100 different types of burrito in a week — and then of course there’s falafel, pasties and so on.”

Eighth Day says it is well placed to take advantage of the growing demand for quality vegetarian food. “Manchester has a long tradition of vegetarianism (the first public meeting of the Vegetarian Society took place in the city in 1848), and also the largest student population in Europe. For students, food is the thing that generally first attracts them. Gradually our younger customers will start to move along to vegetarian bodycare and supplements — but you need a good selection of food to encourage them in first of all.”

“We’re seeing younger vegan customers coming into the store for lunchtime food.”

The growing veggie offer
• Meat-alternatives — Leading health food brand Redwood continues to innovate in this area. In addition to its Cheatin’ range — offering everything from Garlic Sausage Slices to complete roast meals — the company’s popular Vegi Deli range concentrates on great flavours and authentic natural ingredients. The Fry’s 14-product-strong range is also a health food trade favourite offering everything from Chicken-Style Strips (great for stir-fries or with salad) to a delicious Vegetarian Polony.

• Burgers, bites and schnitzels — The ‘burgers and bites’ category is also a growing veggie category. Tival — another strong contender in freezer cabinet — offers a good range including burgers, schnitzels and cocktail sausages.

Provamel has also recently added two new products to the category in the form of its Peppered Schnitzels (seasoned organic soya in organic breadcrumbs) and Meat Free Nuggets based around organic soya and organic corn flakes. Both products have been formulated to have an authentic meat texture and are ready in just five minutes.

• Lunch to go — Having a good selection of veggie sandwiches and salads will strengthen your store’s appeal to vegetarian and vegan. Fresh! is the best-known supplier of organic sandwiches and wraps, with an imaginative veggie range including wheat-free options.

• Patés, dips and sauces — Patés, dips and sauces offer a great way to bolster taste and textures. Suma and Granovita both offer convenient tube packed patés, while Essential offers an excellent Organic Vegan Pesto. Organic and Japanese food specialist Clearspring meanwhile has a great range of artisan-made soya sauces and seasonings.

• Drinks and desserts — It goes without saying that dairy-free drinks — soya, rice, coconut — are a major part of the repertoire in most vegetarian food retailers. More specialist products are also making an inroad into the category, for example hemp milks. One name to look out for is Manitoba Harvest, whose Hemp Bliss range of non-dairy drinks is gaining more health food customers.

Vote veggie for a kinder Food Policy!
Just ahead of this month’s General Election the Vegetarian Society issued its manifesto for a kinder food policy. The Vegetarian Society says it’s seeking the following commitments from Government towards a Kinder Food Policy:

• The development of a humane and sustainable food policy.
• The promotion to the public of an eating plan that encourages a reduction in meat.
• A phasing out of factory farming and the long distance transportation of animals.
• Higher farm animal welfare standards as a core Government food policy.
• Increased investment for fruit and vegetables.

Lucky seven
The seven top-selling lines at Oasis Natural Products, Croydon:

• Viana Smoked Tofu
• Fry’s Frozen Range
• Sojasun Plain Yoghurt
• Vegi Deli Ready-to-Eat Sausages
• Suma Vegetarian Paté (tube)
• Nairns Oatcakes
• Soya milk

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