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Not just for veggies? Londoners talk meat free snacks from Greggs to KFC

By Elizabeth Rushton
January 28 2020, 16.25

Veganuary might be almost over, but that doesn’t mean any of the new vegan products that hit our shelves this month are going anywhere soon.

Increasing numbers of environmental scientists say that consuming less meat and dairy is one of the most valuable lifestyle changes a person can make for the good of the planet.

Introducing more plant-based foods to your diet is now easier than ever, with the beloved Linda McCartney range introducing items like vegetarian scampi and a meatless ‘chicken’ bucket, and high street favourites like Greggs, KFC and Subway all adding new vegan items to their menus to kick off the new year.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the vegan revamps of classic snacks, like the KFC burger or Subway meatball marinara sub, have gone down a storm with vegans and vegetarians, while one staff member at Greggs in Twickenham said of the new vegan steak bakes, ‘we can’t bake them fast enough.’

However, a Twitter poll of people who would normally enjoy a diet including meat found that veggies and vegans aren’t the only ones keen to sample the new snacks on offer.

Almost 75% of almost 160 respondents said they had tried a meat-free alternatives to a popular meat-based snack.

Nik Hewitt was among those particularly taken with Greggs’ new vegan offerings, including the now infamous vegan sausage roll, which was credited with securing the company a 58% surge in profits in the first half of last year.

“I’m an omnivore but the Greggs vegan sausage roll is BETTER than the normal sausage roll,” he said.

“I’ve been a total evangelist and introduced a few committed carnivores to it, too.”

April Lloyd agreed, saying: “I often prefer the vegan alternatives to the ‘real thing’. Best thing I can think of is vegan mayonnaise.”

She added: “I am also an avid cook, so if I spot a vegan alternative that’s cheap to make, I will happily try my hand at it.”

Others feel compelled to try more plant-based options in 2020, but are content with enjoying openly plant-based meals, rather than products that imitate meat.

Jem Collins said: “I tend to do more vegan stuff as a method of experimenting… so I’m much more excited about all the great recipes I could be trying that are totally new rather than a thing that already exists.”

Eileen Pegg had similar thoughts, adding: “Sometimes I see it not as a vegan alternative, but just something that’s tasty in itself – in my opinion tofu, Quorn, seitan etc are delicious!”

For others, the new options offer a great start but don’t go far enough just yet.

Alice Fuller said: “If they were gluten free I’d be all over them!”

Lorna Galbraith added: “The KFC vegan burger was tasty but I probably wouldn’t go there again as they’re pretty expensive!”

KFC’s vegan offering, a Quorn ‘fillet’ cooked in the famous 11 herbs and spices blend, placed in a bun with lettuce and vegan mayo, retails at £3.99.

For those who did decide to try something new, their reasons ranged from simple curiosity to wanting to do something for the environment.

They are certainly not alone, with the Vegan Society reporting a huge rise in the number of people signing up to Veganuary and going plant-based for the month, soaring from 3,000 in 2014 to over 250,000 in 2019.

This year’s target of 350,000 registered participants was smashed within just one week, and the numbers signing up have continued to climb.

At last count, the total was less than 5,000 people away from hitting 400,000.

Suchandrika Chakrabarti said: “I’m eating less meat these days; cooking meat is starting to set my teeth on edge.

“Also, there’s that fun thing of trying a new vegan item and seeing how close it is to the real thing or if it wins over the original.”

For Sophie Buchan, watching the Netflix documentary The Game Changers, which tells the stories of athletes following plant-based diets, was the catalyst for switching meat for tofu and trying more vegan alternatives.

“There’s so many more meat alternatives that look just as appealing, if not more, and taste great,” she said. “It’s also (sometimes) healthier so it’s something I want to continue.”

Not everyone who did try a new plant-based alternative was convinced, however. Lorna added: “I had the Greggs vegan sausage roll and wasn’t sure about it, then someone said to me it tasted like ‘meaty toothpaste’ and now I’ll never be going there again!

“I’ve eaten more fast food since they started bringing out these alternatives than I was before! Probably better for the planet if I learn to cook less meaty things at home.”

And for others, there’s simply nothing the likes of Greggs and co could do to truly live up to their own original creations.

David Taylor said he tried the vegan sausage roll. He said: “It just doesn’t cut it as a meat replacement. Quorn is OK. But they can’t replicate meat.”

He added that he would not be trying the newly released vegan steak bake.

Making the transition from an omnivorous diet to a vegan one certainly isn’t a simple task, yet with such a wide range of alternatives to familiar favourites now available, who knows how many keen Veganuary participants will switch up the status Quorn for good in 2020.

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