Contrary to popular belief, a plant-based diet doesn’t just consist of salads or ‘eating leaves’. Veganism has slowly but surely been taking the UK and the world by storm, in part thanks to the Veganuary movement, started by co-founders Jane Land and Matthew Glover. Since their campaign started, more than 500,000 people have registered on their website to try vegan, but that number doesn’t even scratch the surface.
A recent study from research company Kantar discovered that 1.31 million people (4.7 percent of the total UK population) gave up animal products in January last year, with 832,000 of them trying veganism for the first time. Whilst people across the country struggle to get their hands on Greggs’ new sought after vegan steak bake, we had a chat with Jane, one of the co-founders of Veganuary, to find out more about how veganism has become so popular.
How did the creation of Veganuary come about?
My partner and I, Matthew – we’re the co-founders – we were both vegan, both motivated primarily for animal rights reasons in the early days, and we were doing all sorts of activism; going to demonstrations, leafleting, online campaigns. But we felt like we wanted to do more. We weren’t generating enough momentum and it certainly wasn’t hitting the mainstream. We were inspired by the Movember movement – having a named month always builds momentum and get you on peoples’ radars. January was the perfect month – New Years resolutions, people eating too much over Christmas, wanting to make a fresh start and some more ethical decisions.
When did you decide to launch Veganuary?
We launched it in 2014 – we put some money behind a website and some Facebook ads, and made a bet. I thought 100 people were going to take part, Matthew thought it would be around 1000. We actually had 3,300 people take part in the first year, with just £100 behind advertising and a really simplified website. The media were interested, and people were interested in signing up and learning more about veganism. I quit my job as a teacher and went full time on it, we got a marketing manager and built a brand new website, and the next year we managed to get 12,500 people to take part.
Did you ever think it was going to be this successful?
Being the pessimist in our relationship I’d say no. We knew that the time was right, that veganism was being talked about more and more, and we were tapping into it. But what really did surprise us was the corporate side of things – we really didn’t see that happening and that was a massive win for Veganuary. I think they started jumping on the bandwagon around 2016, and now big brands are launching their vegan products in January to conincide with us. One of the biggest issues with people is convenience – if they can’t get vegan food easily then they’re not going to do it. We need to work in partnership with the corperations to make it easier and cheaper.
Where are some good places to find tasty vegan food?
I think if you’re living in an urban area, the beauty of it now is that the majority of chain restaraunts will have vegan options. Places like Pizza Hut, Pizza Express, they’re all adopting vegan cheese. There’s the Beyond Burger and Moving Mountains burger, and even cheaper places like Iceland now have a whole section of vegan options, it’s just fantastic.
What about guilty pleasures like chocolate?
Galaxy have just brought out a new vegan chocolate bar – I’ve tried the chocolate orange and the hazelnut ones, and they’re amazing. They’ve nailed it with the creamy chocolatety texture that Galaxy do so well. It used to be when you were looking for vegan chocolate that it was all dark, and that would be your ‘go to’. I know that people want milk and white chocolate and things you are familiar with, and the beauty of it is that these brands are producing it. If you go to the likes of Holland and Barrett, there’s a big selection. There’s also a chocolate bar called Vego they’ve brought out. I did a taste test, and no word of a lie, I couldn’t tell the difference between theirs and Cadbury’s.
What would you say to those who struggle to keep up veganism for the whole month?
Sign up, get the resources, and take every day as it comes. We know people are going to slip up – I did in the early days. You’re not going to be outcast, it’s not an exclusive club where if you get caught eating a Snickers bar you’re going to get thrown out! If you’re really craving something, we have a really supportive Facebook group where you can say ‘I’m really craving this, what would you recommend?’ and people can offer support and advice. I know veganism isn’t going to happen overnight, but I’d rather you cut out your meat consumption by 50 percent – just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything.
33a Blanford Square, Newcastle NE1 4HZ
0191 597 8257
A haven for vegans, Vegano offers an extensive vegan breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, plus a range of coffees and cocktails. They have a three course Italian-inspired menu including classics like their creamy, meat-free carbonara, plus street food classics like their ‘ultimate vegano cheezburger’.
The Good Apple Café
18 Derwent Street, Sunderland SR1 3NU
0191 564 1763
The Good Apple Café is a vegetarian and vegan café located in the heart of Sunderland, serving up everything from scrumptious small plates like scrambled tofu on toast, to homemade gluten-free tray bakes and cakes. Their iconic vegan breakfast is a firm favourite, having remained unchanged in the six years this café has been in business (we recommend opting for the ‘hungry vegan’ to double up on the avocado on toast, veggie sausages and hash browns).
Small World Café
27/28 Market Place, Hexham NE46 3PB
Small World Café in Hexham has a menu full of gluten- and dairy-free, vegan and vegetarian dishes on offer. Their homemade vegan chilli, which comes with either bread or nachos is sure to spice up your day. Why not finish off your meal with one of their scrumptious carrot cakes?
Restaurants across Yorkshire
From humble beginnings in a borrowed gazebo in the parks and streets of Leeds to slowly but surely making waves across the country, you’d be hard pressed to find a better place for hummus and pita than the aptly-named Humpit. Their menu is 100 percent plant based, and includes a variety of hot and cold healthy snacks and ‘humpteas’ to wash them down with. We pita the fool that doesn’t come to Humpit.
106 King Street, Cottingham HU16 5QE
The first 100 percent vegan, cruelty-free eatery in East Yorkshire, Blondes is a cosy – and dog-friendly –coffee shop that has an extensive plant-based menu. We recommend trying your hand at their ‘build a burger’ on the menu, where you can pick a pattie and add your extras (feeling hunry? You can even add up to four patties to your burger).
Humblest of Pleasures
35 Market Street, Hebden Bridge HX7 6EU
Humblest of Pleasures is a completely vegan cafe, serving everything a vegan could ask for: breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and cakes. Their vision is to have an indulgent breakfast menu, and a fulfilling varied main menu that everyone, including those who aren’t vegan, can enjoy. And we’re certain that nobody could deny their breakfasts after one look at their generously-sized vegan full English.