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A practical guide to adding vegan options to a menu

Veganism was the standout trend in 2018, with many declaring it to have finally hit the mainstream. Two months into 2019 and it shows no sign of slowing down.

Greggs caused a national stir with the launch of its Vegan Sausage Roll, which proved so popular that it has since been rolled out to all of its stores across the UK, while just last week British Bakels unveiled a new vegan cake mix as part of its Multimix range.

To help more businesses tap the burgeoning market, animal rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) has created a guide to help businesses introduce vegan-friendly options. Here’s what you need to know:

Why offer vegan options?

As of April 2018, the number of vegans in the UK was estimated at 3.5 million – that’s an increase of 700% over the past two years, according to Peta. What’s more, one third of British adults are either vegan, vegetarian or actively trying to reduce the amount of meat they eat.

That’s a sizable potential audience and there are a number of benefits to be gained from catering to it. A more inclusive menu will widen your customer base, while catering for those who also avoid dairy and egg products regardless of the reason for doing so.

Plus, it could generate free advertising for a business.

“Word of mouth is a powerful advertising tool, and vegans are an enthusiastic bunch. In the first half of 2018, #vegan was the biggest food trend on social media,” the guide states.

How to create successful vegan options

Recipes made with an incidental amount of animal-based ingredients are a missed opportunity, according to Peta.

“Making tiny tweaks can open up your menu to even more customers. No-one is choosing foods because there’s a little bit of milk or egg in them, but there are certainly people who are not choosing them for that very reason,” it says.

There are a myriad of alternative ingredients to experiment with. For example, bakeries offering tea and coffee can add soya, nut or oat milk to the menu, while butter in pastry can be substituted with vegetable oils and dairy-free spreads relatively simply. Eggs, can be trickier to master. Those looking to make the swap can find out more by reading British Baker’s latest feature on how to crack the vegan egg issue.

Desserts, tarts and cakes also offer room to experiment, particularly as vegans seek to satisfy their sweet tooth beyond the usual offerings of sorbet and fruit salad.

The same goes for other menu options. While houmous and falafel are great, they are ubiquitous. “Everyone is looking for the full experience when dining out, and businesses offering vegans something a bit different will stand out among the competition,” Peta adds.

Beware the hidden ingredients

While it’s easy to spot milk, eggs and meat in an ingredients list, it’s advisable to check labels before using an ingredient, as small amounts of animal-derived ingredients can go unnoticed.

Key ingredients to look out for include:

  • Anchovies
  • Aspic – a type of savoury jelly made from meat stock
  • Carmine and cochineal – a red pigment produced from scale insects
  • Casein – a type of milk protein
  • Honey
  • Lactose
  • Whey

The Food Standards Agency recommends vegan foods be prepared separately to non-vegan foods. However, this can present a serious obstacle for some businesses.

Peta recognises this and suggests vegan dishes prepared alongside non-vegan ones still be labelled ‘vegan’” but adds that restaurants may wish to include an allergen disclaimer on the menu.

It adds that it is possible to minimise cross-contamination with due diligence (and separate deep-fat fryers, if used) to prepare vegan foods.

Notably, no licence or certification is legally required in order for businesses to refer to foods as ‘vegan’ or ‘suitable for vegans’, but they should ensure it contains no animal-derived products.

Flagging up the vegan options

“There’s no need to create a separate menu for vegan options, and research has shown = integrating them into your main menu can increase uptake,” notes Peta.

A simple symbol next to the item on the menu will alert the diner to the fact that it contains no animal-derived products. Use ‘V’ for vegetarian, ‘Vg’ for vegan and ‘VO’ when there is a vegan option for the listed item, to give diners the information they need at a glance.


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