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The increasing demand for vegan dishes in venues is phenomenal

Adam Simpson, director of marketing at etc.venues, explores the popularity in vegan dishes and shares what makes an appealing one.

Popularity of vegan dishes

The increase in demand from delegates for vegan dishes is phenomenal and presents a major new challenge for venue chefs and F&B managers.

The number of vegan dishes etc.venues served doubled in the last 12 months in the venues which remained open to provide essential training, meetings and workspace, and our chefs have been developing new dishes to increase the range of choices on the menus. However, since 2018 there has been no significant increase in the proportion of consumers who say they are vegan. The growing demand is actually a compliment to the appeal of the vegan dishes that many people are choosing them as their preferred option.

A look at what the British public are buying from supermarkets and research reveals the remarkable growth of this fast-developing trend. Mintel reports that sales of meat-free foods have grown an impressive 40% from £582m in 2014 to an estimated £816m in 2019. The proportion of meat eaters who have reduced or limited the amount of meat they consume has risen from 28% in 2017 to 39% in 2019. Furthermore, 25% of evening meals in the UK are now vegan or vegetarian.

What makes a great vegan dish?

The challenge now for venue chefs is to keep ahead of this trend. But not all vegan dishes are the same and it is important that the dish goes further than just simply ticking the box.

Malik Fseil, head chef at etc.venues County Hall shares what he sees as the three essentials of a great vegan option: “First, it needs to have all the right nutritional values balanced in order to be healthy. This includes proteins, dairy alternative and carbohydrates.

“Second, the dish should not feel like an alternative or substitute. Some of the great traditionally meat dishes can be as adapted to be tasty and exciting as a vegan dish. Finally, the dish needs to be creative and not just one of the boring classic vegan dishes that you can find everywhere. It is our most creative dishes that are proving most popular. It is easy to see the attraction of an afternoon tea option of pecan nut carrot cake, with strawberry and lime icing served with a lemon, mint and ginger iced tea.”

Marek Dabrowski, head chef at etc.venues 133 Houndsditch elaborates on the importance of ensuring the vegan dishes are full of nutritional value and how to achieve this: “The essential factor is the choice of ingredients. They have to be ones that help the body and mind to function during a meeting or event. For lunches we use plant-based proteins like tofu, tempeh, soya products, seitan, lentils, seeds, nuts and beans so that many dishes are both vegan and nutritious. Many of the same ingredients can be used to offer gluten free dishes as well.”

The challenge will continue. With Mintel reporting that sales of meat-free food are expected to keep growing to be in excess of £1.1b by 2024, the search for appealing vegan options cannot stop.