It’s the lovechild of vegan and paleo. Known as the pegan diet, it’s a diet aimed at the health-conscious consumer.
Searches for pegan eating on Pininterest are up 337% compared to last year and the diet was one of the official trend predictions from the site for 2019. Over on Instagram, there are over 86,000 posts that have hashtagged the diet.
But what exactly does eating pegan involve? It encourages a high intake of fruit, vegetables and good fats from nuts and seeds; moderate intake of gluten-free grains and pulses; and small amounts of meat as long as they are responsibly sourced and grass-fed.
Drilling down into the details, the fruit and veg must also be low on the glycaemic index – think onions, tomatoes, cabbage and cauliflower, while potatoes beans and corns are out. Fish is also acceptable as long as it has a low mercury content and lots of omega 3 fat, like sardines and wild salmon.
The diet shuns gluten and beans because they use unnatural chemicals in production and increase blood sugars, along with industrial sugars and dairy products. Processed foods are a big no – so avoiding anything with additives, preservatives, dyes and MSG.
Independent registered nutritionist Laura Wyness tells Food Spark that a diet that include lots of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and moderate grains and pulses sounds like a great start.
“[But] cutting out all dairy, without careful substitution, could have a negative impact on bone health due to a lack of minerals such as calcium. Gluten only needs to be avoided by people with coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance. Gluten-free products are not necessarily healthy,” she says.
“Excluding ‘industrial sugars’, sounds like sugars such as agave or date syrup could be still be added, which may result in products that are high in free sugars – the type of sugars that we should all be consuming less of.”
Overall, she says the pegan diet sounds like an unnecessarily restrictive diet, which would be time-consuming to get nutritionally right and would likely require supplementation to ensure adequate intake of nutrients.
“It may even lead to feeling socially isolated when trying to follow this diet when eating out and a poor relationship with food could develop. Hopefully this diet won’t catch on in the UK,” she adds.
One up the competition
For now, pegan doesn’t seem to be a thing in the UK. But Mintel global food and drink analyst Hororata Jarocka said categories like fruit snacks and cold cereals offer potential for integrated pegan products.
“Pegan snack bars have great market potential,” he noted. “By adopting a broader health message, supported by minimal processing and ‘clean’ ingredients, manufacturers would be able to address the general consumer interest in healthy snack options, while appealing to a wider range of consumers.”
Cru8, a company whose paleo products are prominent in Selfridges, has a range of bread, crackers and sweet treats that could potentially rebrand its offering to meet this lifestyle. Sparkie thinks this is where the real opportunity lies as the market has been flooded with vegan products.
So what’s the strategy Sparkie?
I think the logical way to look at this is that the retailers and food producers are aware that vegan food has a large place in the market now, but it has quickly become saturated. Offering products that cater to the more niche aspects of these diets gives a way to one up the competition. It is still a gamble though. It is not entirely clear how many of the vegan population will buy into the additional bits. They might well just see it as their regular products with an added bonus, which would be good for the producers or they might think the faddish bit is unnecessary.
What might work is if those producers who are already producing products that fit the extra requirements for pegan begin labelling it as such to make it apparent to the consumers. I’d expect that there are quite a few brands and products that fit this criteria by chance which could take advantage of the hype without the risk of developing completely new products.