I’ve traveled the world already, and I’ve proud of my experiences as well as what I’ve learned along the way. Now I’m a vegetarian officially and I’d like to share my thoughts on this topic today.
A new understanding of vegan food after traveling the world:
Even as it was unfolding in the first cold days of Veganuary 2019, the launch of the Greggs vegan sausage roll felt like something marketing experts and cultural commentators would be pulling apart for years to come. What is certain is that it was good for Greggs: its profits leapt more than 50%, to £40.6m, in the first six months of 2019. Queues were forming at Greggs branches up and down the land. It was hard to keep up with demand for the snack.
The bakery behind the vegan sausage rolls enjoyed great publicity and the name, “Greggs” has rapidly become the “on-the-go” brand. Its shares have doubled in value over the past year. Part of that strategy involved selling more coffee. Greggs is now Britain’s third-biggest coffee retailer, ahead of Starbucks. Another part of it involved selling sandwiches. Yet another component of it involved expanding its range to cater to modern tastes and choices: low-calorie porridges, gluten-free brownies and a sausage roll that would appeal not only to vegans but also to “flexitarians” trying to reduce their meat consumption. The strategy worked. Greggs’ profits jumped more than 50%, to £40.6m, in the first six months of 2019.
The snack was launched with all the fanfare of an Apple product. The CEO of Greggs thought it might only last a few weeks, but it was selling out within minutes of arriving in the shops. What was interesting about it was it had a sort of double effect. People arrived looking for that product, but once they were in Greggs they saw what else was available.
The vegan sausage roll is now one of Greggs’ five bestsellers, but sales of all of its ranges have increased to the point that the company was able to distribute a £35m special dividend to shareholders in July. The company is looking into vegan versions of its other bestsellers. One way of looking at this is that veganism is great for business. Another is that vegan sausage rolls are a great marketing tool for pork sausage rolls.
Greggs is emblematic of the “vegan halo” effect, by which companies that have embraced veganism have reaped the rewards. Other products followed the trend: Leon’s burgers, Papa John’s, the pizza chain, has also seen a boost from its vegan “sheese” range, which launched in January. Vegan customers like to share on social media how happy they are with the products and the fact that companies cater for them.
The phenomenon is not confined to food. Dr Martens boots have strolled in and out of fashion many times in the past few decades, but the brand is proving a hit with eco-conscious teenagers, movie stars and celebrities. Vegan shoes and boots are now available and they are empowering “rebellious self-expression”.
Suddenly, there are vegan sofas, vegan face cream and vegan beers and even vegan fitness-supplement products. This overwhelmingly positive response is astounding since only about 1% of Britons are vegan, according to the Vegan Society. Company managers are aware that the trend may not stick around forever, while most people seem convinced that this is only the beginning. While veganism was previously associated primarily with animal welfare, now there are other compelling reasons to consider: health, climate change, and the environment.
The new vegan food trend – a discovery from global tourism:
Lush, densely forested Kerala, the exuberantly green south Indian state sometimes called “God’s own country”, is exactly the kind of place you would expect to produce a superfood: the jackfruit. Covered in spikes and emitting a stench of rotting onions, jackfruit can balloon to an ungainly 45kg, and its inside is coated in a thick gum that stains axes, machetes or whatever heavy-duty tool is employed to attack its leathery shell.
Thousands of miles from this tropical forest habitat, in food trucks in Los Angeles, vegan eateries in London, and now even at Pizza Hut, jackfruit consumption is surging among diners looking for an ethical alternative to meat. In India, where the fruit originated, that demand is helping to drive a renaissance for a plant that only five years ago was still regarded as a backyard nuisance. “They would fall from trees and rot, gathering flies,” said James Joseph, a jackfruit entrepreneur. “People would stack them outside their houses with a sign saying ‘Please take this away’.”
From a starting point of virtually zero, jackfruit exports, including to the US, Europe, and Britain, grew to 500 tonnes last year and could reach 800 tonnes by the end of 2019, according to Kerala’s agriculture minister, VS Sunil Kumar. “The vegan trend in western countries will help [jackfruit farmers] tap a booming global market,” he said.
Jackfruit, or chakka in the local language, Malayalam, has flourished in Kerala for thousands of years. Even today, there are no jackfruit orchards in the state; trees grow wild on roadsides and in forests. For the past 25 years, Thomas has roved the state, trying to document every variety. “I taste it both green and ripe,” he said. His reputation is now such that people invite him to their properties, hoping he will include their jackfruit in a massive seed depository he is assembling. Nine in 10 samples are rejected. “Sometimes it can provoke an angry reaction,” he said.
Food researchers are trumpeting the potential for jackfruit to become a staple crop on a warming planet. “The most significant feature about jackfruit is that it’s huge. It is one of the biggest tree fruits in the world,” said Danielle Nierenberg, president of the Food Tank, a Washington DC-based food study institute. “It’s large enough that families can eat one fruit for a long time. It takes relatively little care, doesn’t need a lot of irrigation and is resilient to pests and disease. So, if we’re thinking of foods for the future, jackfruit is what we should be thinking about.”
In May 2018, the Kerala government declared jackfruit the state’s official fruit, with the winning slogan: “Jackfruit is the best fruit. Its fruit has innumerable good qualities.” It is now being processed into ice-cream, crisps and juices. One of those leading that research is entrepreneur James Joseph. He is a former Microsoft executive but, like Thomas and Padre, has become a big fan of the fruit.
Jackfruit has multiple health benefits. Westerners who have travelled the world mostly love jackfruit for its ability to mimic pulled pork on tacos or ham slices on a pizza. “That would be a crime to do in India,” Joseph says. “This is a country with a massive protein deficiency.” Instead, he promotes jackfruit’s potential to tackle a major public health crisis. Kerala is India’s best-educated state and one of its most prosperous. As it has grown richer, it has traded the diseases of scarcity for those of abundance: one in two households in the state include someone suffering from diabetes. Major culprits are the fistfuls of rice or oily flatbreads that accompany virtually every traditional meal, Joseph says. “I realized that one cup of jackfruit has 40% less carbohydrate than a cup of rice and four times the fiber,” he says. You are eating a green fruit that behaves like bread.”
“Global tourism is so eye-opening.”