Supermarkets are changing the menu this festive season. Forget about the Christmas nut roast – those who don’t eat meat are going to be spoilt for choice on 25 December as Britain’s supermarkets roll out their biggest range of festive vegan and vegetarian food to date.
Treats on offer include the first mince pies to be given the Vegan Society seal of approval, a vegan version of the Christmas classic Baileys, turmeric-spiced cauliflower wellington and mountains of new dairy-free cheeses.
As the popular “flexitarian” trend continues to sweep the UK, major retailers such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer are hoping that even occasional carnivores might consider swapping their traditional turkey for an exotic vegan or vegetarian centrepiece.
Flexitarianism has been one of the most striking food trends of 2017, with one in three people trying to reduce their meat intake. According to the Vegan Society, more than half of UK adults are now adopting “vegan-buying behaviour”, while the number of full-time vegans in the UK has grown four-fold in the past 10 years.
Tesco has taken its commitment to meat- and dairy-free produce particularly seriously. It has hired the American chef and self-proclaimed “plant pusher” Derek Sarno – the former global executive chef for Whole Foods Market – as its “director of plant-based innovation”.
Sarno has overseen the supermarket’s biggest ever vegan and vegetarian Christmas offering this year, which has double the number of festive centrepieces compared with last year, including, for the first time, two vegan dinners – turmeric-spiced cauliflower wellington and, for those who cannot let go of their nut roast, a pecan and peanut roast with maple-roasted carrot and parsnip.
As well as sprucing up Tesco’s Christmas food, Sarno is working with suppliers, farmers and chefs on developing new plant-based foods that will go on sale over the coming year.
“These are changing times and vegetable dishes have now become centrepiece heroes in their own right on dinner tables up and down the country,” said Sarno. “This year, with the quality of vegetarian and vegan food now so good, there may even be squabbles across the dinner table over who gets what.”
Marks & Spencer is showcasing more meat-free Christmas dinner main courses than meat-based ones, after its vegetarian range sold out in record time last year. The M&S team has been inspired by chefs such as Yotam Ottolenghi, Robin Gill and Deborah Madison, an American cookery teacher and chef who hails the use of pulses and beans.
The retailer says it saw its biggest year for sales of vegetarian dishes last Christmas, while its Food to Order veggie dish sales were up 40% on 2015, and its butternut and sweet potato rosti became its bestselling vegetarian product ever.
Asda is behind the first Vegan Society-approved mince pies and it predicts 18m will be eaten this Christmas. “Retailers have picked up on the fact that labelling a product as vegan attracts many other people, proving that it’s not just vegans who love vegan food,” said a spokeswoman for the Vegan Society….