Christopher Faulkner, Founder of the Food Service Expert, tells us how today’s hot topic, veganism, is impacting in the Foodservice sector.

“It’s fair to say the past couple of years have been some of the most disruptive for the UK as a whole – many sectors are bracing themselves for change, and the foodservice sector is no different. With uncertainty surrounding Brexit, it’s understandably causing a lot of distraction with many question marks still hanging over the industry. However, it’s important that we all keep an eye on the coming year and stay focused on adapting to ensure we maintain pace with evolving consumer’s tastes and trends.

The continued growth of Veganism

“One of the key trends for 2019 is the continued growth of veganism. There are now 3.5 million people in Britain identifying as vegan [1] , an increase from 540,000 in 2016 [2] . This growth seems to be down to various reasons:

  • consumers are more aware of what they are eating and are choosing plant-based food over
    other options
  • consumers are turning their backs on meat
  • there is a heightened awareness of the impact food choices have on the environment

Brands are taking notice

“Vegan options are now commonplace across the board – big high street chains such as Marks & Spencer have a vegan range, many restaurants now offer dedicated vegan menus and even alcohol brands are joining in with Guinness announcing it is suitable for vegans in draft, bottle and can form earlier in 2018.

“With the younger generation driving this trend, nearly half (42%) of all UK vegans are aged between 15-34 years [3] , it’s crucial that all foodservice operators cater for this burgeoning market. Gone are the days that a vegan menu consists of a boring salad – plant-inspired menus can be, and are, creative and exciting. In fact, for the savvy foodservice operators, finding a way to create an inspiring vegan menu that appeals to both non-meat and meat eaters will mean you could have just one menu that is delicious and interesting enough to cater for all tastes.

“For example, I recently had a vegan burger and every part of it – from the patty itself, to the bun and the sauces – was delicious. It’s a classic British dish and if pub chefs and restaurateurs can nail a really good vegan burger then it would keep everyone happy.

The shift in demand

“There is also a shift in the number of people drinking alcohol – a trend which is again being driven by the younger generation. More than 25% of 16-24 year olds class themselves as non-drinkers [4]  and as such, there is natural growth in demand for more interesting, creative soft drink options. The rise in this trend is further demonstrated with the emergence of alcohol-free festivals – for example the Mindful Drinking Festival which took place in July 2018 in east London.

“It’s imperative pubs, restaurants and bars cater for non-alcoholic drinkers in 2019 – whether it’s for those who abstain from drinking or for anyone who is on a health kick, prefers soft drinks, pregnant or the designated driver that night. Offering a menu of inspiring virgin cocktails, infused juices and flavored waters will mean alcohol drinkers and non-alcohol drinkers alike can enjoy a summer afternoon or winter evening of drinks together.

The impact of Brexit

“Alongside these key trends, it is of course Brexit that will have an impact on the foodservice sector in 2019. This will likely have a knock-on effect across the board, including the cost of food, rates, rent and even minimum wage. It’s easy to feel nervous as we face a slightly different future to what we are used to. However, the way for the industry to remain strong is to keep the consumer at the heart of any business decision. For anyone working within the industry, ask yourself what would make you keep coming back to your favourite pub? Or what would entice you into an outlet to try a new menu? How can you make the experience worthwhile for the consumer to visit you, and to keep visiting?

[1], April 2018
[2]  The Vegan Society, 2016
[3]  The Vegan Society, 2016
[4]  BMC Public Health, October 2018