The 2021 Food Trends to Know for Veganuary
by David Klemt
Strange or even inappropriate as it may seem, it’s time to review food trend data and predictions because we’re hurtling toward 2021.
January also plays host to two monthlong traditions that impact F&B operations: Dry January and Veganuary. For this post, we’re focusing on the latter.
Veganuary may not have claimed “tradition” status just yet, to be honest, but it appears to be well on its way. The movement began in the United Kingdom in 2014 as a social and eco-friendly campaign intended to make the transition to adopting a vegan diet as easy as possible.
The movement has been growing each year with 2018 through 2020 seeing the biggest increases in participation. In 2017, a reported 50,000 people had signed up for Veganuary. That number jumped to a reported 170,000 in 2018; 250,000 in 2019; and 400,000 in 2020. According to the Veganuary campaign, 2020’s participation represented more than one million animal lives and the CO2 equivalent of 450,000 flights.
“Research shows that health is a significant driver for so many people going vegan, especially American consumers. But the reasons to test this lifestyle and decrease consumption of animal-based products are countless, from improving health, to reducing animal suffering, and helping to preserve the planet,” said Veganuary CEO Simon Winch in 2018. “Research shows that not only are there more people curious about going vegan, but more people are sticking with the lifestyle after taking part in Veganuary, which is great news! We are thrilled with the enthusiasm and growing response from Americans taking the pledge and will continue to do our part in making it as easy as possible to try vegan, for as many people as possible.”
Participants sign up for free and are challenged to stick to a vegan diet for the entirety of January. While Covid-19 vaccines have been approved, they’re not widely available to the general public. Many markets are still restricted to outdoor dining, delivery and pickup. It’s important that operators stay current with food and consumer behavior trends to remain top of mind and continue generating revenue.
We reviewed multiple sources to find common vegan-friendly food trends for operators to leverage when programming their 2021 menus.
Plant-based (Datassential, Delish)
One big difference between plant-based and vegan is that the latter’s focus on moral and ethical reasons for choosing the diet. Regardless, plant-based is expected to grow in popularity and therefore demand across the globe.
Tofu (Food & Wine, Whole Foods Market)
The great thing about tofu, a sentence I never thought I’d type, is that the back of house can get as creative as they want with it. Tofu “scrambles” (no eggs, just peppers, onions and sweet potato cubes), fishless tacos (breaded and brined tofu), and spaghetti with tofu riffs elevate this ingredient.
Mushrooms (Food & Wine, Whole Foods Market)
Portobello mushrooms, for example, are more than capable of starring in an array of dishes, replacing animal proteins rather easily. There’s also the fact that mushrooms are being used to make to-go packaging, giving eco-minded guests another reason to support a particular restaurant.
Chickpeas (Whole Foods Market, Martha Stewart.com)
“You can chickpea anything,” says Whole Foods Market. In fact, they claim it’s the cauliflower, taking several forms, like pasta and flour.
Hyper-local (Food & Wine, MarthaStewart.com, The New York Times)
The push for restaurants to source ingredients locally and highlight them on their menus isn’t expected to slow. These publications and more are recognizing supporting local as a “trend” (it’s more a movement at this point) that will get stronger in 2021.
Meal kits (Food & Wine, Delish, MarthaStewart.com, The New York Times)
These, as several publications have stated, are here to stay. Consumers got used to these when subscription services exploded in popularity. Some restaurants offered them pre-pandemic as a response to the meal-kit subscription craze, and they’ve become more prevalent since Covid-19 ripped apart the world. They’re a hit with consumers, so operators should consider vegan-friendly meal kits during Veganuary.
Home cooking classes (Datassential, Whole Foods Market, Delish)
Many of us probably feel like our entire lives are one big Zoom meeting at this point. Well, that’s not expected to change any time soon. A great way to connect with guests staying at home is to host cooking classes—with a focus on vegan cooking in January—and follow up with curated meal kits.
Datassential also identified baby carrots and ramen among their 2021 food trend predictions (and both are vegan-friendly), and carob, chicory root, “future” produce (specialty produce varities), and honeysuckle as flavor trends to follow next year.
Two trends that are not considered vegan? Avocados and fermented honey because the reliance on bees to produce and cultivate both are considered “exploitation” by vegans. Remember the moral and ethical difference between vegan and plant-based from above? There you go.