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The vegan fast food revolution

What do Pizza Hut, Dominos, Hungry Jacks, Z, BP and Pita Pit have in common? They’re all vegan. Yes, you read that right – they all offer dedicated, vegan options, and I’m not talking about an undressed salad.

In the last three years we’ve seen major change in the number of outlets offering vegan menu options, from The Sugar Club to The Coffee Club, but one area was still a vegan black hole, and that was fast food. If you fancied a burger, it had to be Lord of the Fries – tasty, but limited outlets and very expensive. If you wanted a pizza it had to be Hell – again, super tasty and a bit more readily available, but still no good if you’re stuck in Otorohanga or if you’re on a budget. However, 2018 has been the year of the vegan and we’ve seen many mainstream fast food outlets jump on the plant-based band wagon.

“We knew the response to vegan cheese was going to be big after the response we saw on social media, but we didn’t know it was going to be this popular,” says Domino’s New Zealand general manager Cameron Toomey. 

The company trialed vegan cheese after a Facebook survey in 2017 showed overwhelming support for the option. Domino’s announced their vegan cheese was here to stay on 1st October, and have since revealed a new vegan cheesy garlic bread option. 

“The popularity of, and demand for, vegan products has increased considerably over the years so it’s great we are now able to offer this high quality, non-GMO, plant-based vegan cheese. We’re excited that customers love this product as much as we do.”

BP announced a new vegan pie in September, following on from Z, which began permanently stocking vegan options in 2016. 

“Wild Bean Cafes have offered a vegetarian option for some time and we have listened to our customers asking for a vegan choice so are proud to now make this available,” said BP general manager Retail Adrian McClellanin an interview with Newshub.

“We expect our vegan pie to be in hot demand. We think it’s so good that many of our regular meat pie lovers will enjoy trying the satay vegan pie instead of their usual meat favourite.”

Recent Nielsen researchfrom the US shows plant-based food is driving growth for retailers. While only 3 percent of Americans told Nielsen they followed a strictly vegan lifestyle, a full 37 percent reported they were following a specific diet, and as of 2017, 19.5 percent of food and beverage dollars came from plant-based products. Vegan products and produce sales growth is outpacing that of total food and beverage sales.

I also asked a few vegans what the mainstream fast food adoption meant to them – and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

“The addition of vegan options is great,” says Aucklander Sean King. “This will create more competition to capture the growing vegan market. Bring it on!”

“I’m totally stoked at every addition of vegan options at every eater,” says Alice Smith from Christchurch. “It demonstrates the demand is there and meeting the market is in a business’ own commercial interest.”

“When I first went vegan it took a lot more planning, making sure I carried snacks in case of a snackmergency,” says Renee Boyer. “Now more fast food places have a vegan option it’s so much easier.” 

Most vegan agree that the increase in mainstream fast food outlets offering vegan options is a good thing, making life easier, and normalising the lifestyle choice. Some people even admitted they had only recently gone fully vegan because of the great new choices available. Vegan business is certainly booming, and well received by the market. 

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