The Christmas season is known industry-wide as the busiest time of the year, with the early weeks of January traditionally reserved for hangovers and recovery. However, with veganism now very much a mainstream proposition, January has recently become an important plant-based battleground for retail and foodservice sectors alike.
And, to kick-start Veganuary 2020, a number of major fast food chains have unleashed milestone vegan options, including McDonald’s with their veggie dippers and Greggs with a vegan version of their steak bake.
We’ve taken a closer look at some of these releases to pinpoint relevant trends, directions and ingredients.
King of the Quorn
Wasting no time in 2020, Greggs launched their hotly anticipated vegan steak bake in the early hours of January 2nd, almost a year to the day since unleashing their vegan sausage roll.
The pastry chain’s profits sky-rocketed following the latter’s release last year, climbing more than 52% to £36.7m for the 26 weeks to June 29, 2019.
Considering their previous success, Greggs have stuck with the same plant-based protein as before. While Quorn’s mycoprotein, which is made through the fermentation of fungi, is certainly not a new invention, it is pretty on-trend.
Gut health and fermentation concepts/practices are all the rage due to consumers’ increasingly holistic habits of late. The humble mushroom, meanwhile, has been consistently highlighted as a major ingredient for the coming year, with the more curious consumer unlocking potential for lesser known species.
The attractiveness of Quorn’s mycoprotein was no lost on KFC either, with the fried chicken giants releasing their Zero Chicken burger on the same day as Greggs with the same fungi-based meat alternative.
McDonald's goes dipping
Around mid-December, McDonald’s announced that it was to release its first ever vegan-approved UK meal in 2020. And, today, its veggie dippers hit their outlets nationwide.
Certified by The Vegan Society (despite being called “veggie”), the dippers are made from red pepper, rice, sun-dried tomato pesto and split peas, and are surrounded by light and crispy breadcrumbs.
But why no burger for their first ever vegan option?
“A dippable product is enjoyed by adults and children alike, which is proven by our ever-popular McNuggets,” a McDonald’s spokesperson tells Food Spark.
“The Dippers were tested with customers as part of the menu development for our wraps range and tested really well – the flavour and texture were popular with both adults and children.”
It seems at least part of the reason behind the dipper format is to bring more opportunity for kid’s meals, which we’ve seen enjoy something of an industry-wide renaissance recently, with children more inclined to try new flavours and textures, both of which are key hurdles for any plant-based meat alternative.
In response to our question on why they chose to go with split pea protein in the dippers, McDonald’s said that “it is a nutritious, high fibre option”, with this the latest in several noteworthy, pea-based alternative releases both in foodservice and retail over the last six months.
The Mediterranean feel of the product is perhaps also worth noting, considering recent forecasts of a growth in flavours and ingredients from the region over the coming year.
Not looking to be left behind, Pizza Hut have also released a new product for Veganuary, the Pepperphoni, which uses its own pea protein-based meat alternative for pepperoni and a Violife vegan cheese.