Sustainability is on the menu: why it’s never been easier to eat more plants

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People in the UK are eating more vegetarian (or “plant-based”) food than ever. Never one to miss out on a foodie trend, Sian Cooke shares how retailers and restaurants are responding – and helping push this shift further

I love a good steak. Which is not how you’d expect a sustainability blog to begin but stay with me.

I’ve always struggled with lowering my meat consumption significantly because I found vegetarian food felt like something was missing. Meat gives me protein, but more than that it gives texture, taste and the feeling of being full. But recently I have noticed a change in the way I eat. I’m finding meat alternatives more appealing.

This is because the food industry is responding to current growing food trends; veganism, “flexitarianism” and sustainability are all featuring in customers’ lifestyle choices more. And their concerns about the environmental, health and animal welfare impacts of meat consumption are only growing.

We all know this but it’s worth emphasising – meat isn’t the only source of protein. To address the culture of eating meat for protein, Hubbub’s Meat Your Match campaign with male gym enthusiasts aimed to challenge participants to replace half their animal-based protein with plant-based protein. 80% successfully did so within two months and would recommend the challenge to people they know.

In your shopping trolley

Supermarkets are now giving us interesting and exciting meat alternatives, such as the blended burger, a beetroot burger that “bleeds” and even meat-free mince in the meat aisle.

Branding and marketing of meat-free products is also evolving. The Better Buying Lab looked at how language can change the consumption of plant-based foods and shift people’s diets to become more sustainable. Through their workshops, they found that language needs to be shifted to make plant-based food attractive, socially “normal” and describe how the food can satisfy the needs of the consumer. So it’s out with the “vegetarian” and “meat free” and in with the “Love Your Veg Shroomdog” (Sainsbury’s) and “100% Plant Based” (Minced).

When eating out

Casual dining and food-to-go outlets have also responded with exciting, colourful new plant-based offerings. When I eat out, I now choose vegetarian meals over meat because they sound new, exciting, flavourful and exotic. Wahaca’s sweet potato and feta taquito, yes please!  Pret’s Falafel, Avo and Chipotle Flat Bread, absolutely! Leon’s Halloumi and Mushroom Breakfast Pot… sign me up!

By providing plentiful options, the casual dining sector is making life easier for veggies, vegans and flexitarians alike – as well as normalising plant-based food for everyone else. This is great news for our taste-buds, people’s health and the planet.

It has never been easier or more appetising to reduce your meat consumption. This means there is absolutely no excuse for hummus sandwiches. Ever.

Sustainability is firmly on the radar in the casual dining sector. Read about how Nando’s has created one of the UK’s most sustainable restaurants and why Pizza Hut is meeting the single-use plastics challenge head-on.

Get in touch with Sian Cooke to find out how sustainability can feature more in your menu, properties or operations.

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