World Vegan Day may be in November. And Veganuary was four months ago. But embracing veganism isn’t just a twice-a-year thing, and the global shift in adopting a plant-based lifestyle is growing exponentially.
In a month that saw British chef Gordon Ramsay tell the world, via Tik Tok, he was “turning vegan”; model Chrissy Tiegen reveal a plant-based range of cleaning products with Kris Jenner and luxury brand Hermes announce that they were launching their first-ever vegan travel bag made with mushroom leather, veganism has never been more on-trend – and adopting a vegan lifestyle has never been simpler.
If you’re one of the millions considering becoming vegan today – whether it’s because you’re concerned about your health, the environment, or animal welfare – you’re part of one of the Middle East’s biggest transition groups. Once seen as an obscure and restrictive form of dieting, extending into a variety of other life choices, interest in veganism as a lifestyle, health and environmental movement has skyrocketed in recent years, with 2020 Google Trends data suggesting that interest in veganism has doubled since 2015, long since surpassing online-search interest in vegetarianism, while the number of new vegan products available on the market has mushroomed – excuse the vegan leather pun – by 250% since 2010 to keep up with the burgeoning demand.
“Middle Eastern consumers are becoming more aware of the health impacts of certain diets and the increased exposure to chronic diseases, so are demanding cleaner and more wholesome food options,’ says Roy Koyess, founder of Dubai-based healthy snack company Freakin’ Healthy, and newly-launched vegan meal plan company, Root’D. We wanted Root’D to deliver on being authentic, and have that home-cooked taste consumers crave, yet to be creative and innovative at the same time. Our goal was to redefine vegan cuisine as we know it, by challenging a consumers pre-set beliefs about this type of diet.”
Root’D plant-based meal plans are packed with clean nutrients, and are wholesome and clean, keeping the healthy eater consciously satisfied, without compromising on deliciousness and great taste. With three different plans available – weight management; balanced lifestyle and detox-refuel – and over 45 meal options, each plan is specifically curated to help customers achieve overall health, improve digestion and positively impact their lives both physically and mentally.
“The real key for us is to deliver on that taste experience without compromising on ingredients and quality. You can give someone the best paint, brushes and a clear, step-by-step instruction guide on how to paint the Sistine Chape,l but only the masters can come close to Michelangelo,’ laughs Roy. ‘This is where talent comes in. Having Kismerlly Alvarez – one the most passionate and talented vegan chefs in the region joining our team – ensured that we create edible masterpieces in the kitchen. Since we launched last October, we’ve noted that around 40% of our consumers are not actually vegan or plant-based already, which clearly indicates the underserved market for delicious and healthy vegan cuisine.”
To really understand the far-reaching impact of consumer demand for vegan food, all that is required is to take a look at the global landscape. The clearest indication? That major F&B chains who have traditionally built their brands on meat-based menu now offer plant based options of their best sellers – proof that vegan and plant based diets are a matter of fact, not a matter of fad.
The stats are significant. By 2025, the vegan global market will be valued at approximately $24 billion, with growth rates above 10% per annum. The biggest vegan market in the world is the US, accounting for 30% of the share, but Asia Pacific is the fastest- growing region, and will take pole position in the next 5 years. 40% of US consumers are adding vegan options to their diets, and 95% of consumers that eat plant-based burgers are not actually vegan, highlighting the consumer demand to try – and prefer to buy – meat alternatives.
“Some people consider veganism to be boring or have no taste, but it’s so exciting when people taste good vegan food and realise they can be vegan and enjoy it, not see it as a sacrifice,’ says Root’D’s Executive Chef, Kismerlly Alvarez – better known by all as Kiki. ‘Pure ingredients taste delicious without chemicals and fake flavour enhancements.”
Previously part of the culinary genius at The Four Seasons Dubai’s Peruvian dining hotspot COYA and more recently, Dubai’s first plant-based café SEVA, Kiki has been responsible for bringing vegan food to life for countless diners across the region, whether they’re meat eaters or not, and has already added a wealth of visionary vegan recipes to Root’D’s rapidly-growing menu offering.
With a passion for veganism fuelled by her love for animals, a TV show telling the story of where our food came from encouraged a then 20-year-old Kiki to create all of her own clean food from scratch – with strict guidelines of no nasties, no packaging, no cans and no meat.
Bringing her favourite food, arepas – the National food of her native Venezuela – to the Root’D menu, Rainbow Tacos, No-Tuna Salad Rolls, Baked Cauliflower with Chimichurri sauce – another nod to South American flavours – have also been introduced. Jackfruit replaces chicken and tuna in dishes for flavour and texture, mushrooms do the same for meat, and tofu is used in place of eggs for omelettes, quiches and muffins.
“I believe COVID and the lockdowns have had a big impact on the food trends for 2021, with so many more people now aware of what they are eating, the source of the ingredients and impact on the planet,’ says Kiki. ‘There are a lot of small and local brands like Root’D that are doing the right thing, and we need to embrace them and support them.” And with an enhanced focus upon safeguarding our health, consumers are becoming curious as to how they can super-charge their diet choices by trialling different natural foodstuffs and lesser-known ingredients. “It’s the time for more ‘eats’ that are made with cleaner ingredients, made from vegetables and seeds, rather than a bunch of E-numbers and preservatives,’ says Kiki. ‘I see adaptogens and adaptogens drinks making their mark in cafes and restaurants across the region. We need them more than ever as people get educated about these products,and so should see demand rise for maça, ashwagandha, camu camu, lucuma, and more.”
And as the demand for all things vegan increases across the UAE, along with other forward-thinking regional start-ups, Roy’s focus through Root’D is to support what is destined to become one of the biggest health movements the region has seen in years. “We’re striving to deliver a complete healthy F&B solution to consumers,’ he says. ‘Our goal is to bring that segment of the market that has every intention of living a healthier lifestyle into the healthy living segment – so we need to be ubiquitous. Ultimately available not only in multi-channels, but also at arm’s reach for the consumer, both Freakin’ Healthy and Root’D provide F&B solutions for consumers in their pantries, refrigerators, freezers and for their daily meals.”
Root’D Meal plans are available as a two week or monthly plan only. Daily prices start at AED 120, with monthly prices starting at AED 2400 (20 deliveries or 5 days a week for 4 weeks)
For further details, visit: freakinhealthy.com