In the month when resolutions reverberate and health is heralded as the prime focus of the new year, a wave of have-a-go vegans try to clean up their diet for veganuary.
In a trend that is sweeping the globe, veganism – the practice of cutting animal products from daily life – is now more than a niche philosophy but completely chic.
And Edinburgh has now topped the international league in a study revealing it the third most popular city in the world for vegans.
The study by culinary recipe go-to brand Chef’s Pencil, released data showing the search interest level for veganism across the world was at an all-time high.
But the Capital can’t be accused of shaking off the kale in response to the latest trend. It has a history of championing diets geared towards animal commodity-free dining.
Henderson’s, the city’s original vegetarian restaurant, set the precedent in 1965 and three years ago launched Edinburgh’s first ever dedicated vegan eatery – Henderson’s Vegan. Manager Barrie Henderson said at the time, the launch was a response to “growing awareness and interest” of the vegan diet, partly a result of some high-profile proponents such as Jay-Z and Beyonce as well as an increased knowledge of the ethics and sustainability of the diet on the planet.
Over the last decade, the number of vegans in the UK has increased by more than 350 per cent. Data released last year suggested that up to 350,000 Scots could now be eating plant-based diets while shunning meat, dairy and egg products.
The survey by comparethemarket.com suggests 3.5m people in the UK – or seven per cent of the population – now identify as vegan.
Of those figures, six per cent of Scots have gone vegan and 14 per cent are considering it.
Previous research by The Vegan Society in 2016 showed that 540,000 British residents – just one per cent of the population – were vegan.
Edinburgh in particular saw a surge in vegan establishments last year including the country’s first vegan Kebab shop, Karma Kebab in Newington. Salt-baked celeriac, mushroom scallops and heart of palm calamari are just some of the dishes available at Leith eatery Harmonium and a 100 per cent vegan menu courtesy of Holy Cow is available in the city centre.
With veganism becoming a more popular dietary choice, restaurants, cafes and shops have adapted to keep up with the demand of over half a million vegans. Even high-street bakery Greggs has been struggling to keep up with demand after introducing a vegan-friendly sausage roll last week.
Loudons has always been conscious of special diets and as such, the consistently packed cafe and bakery buzzing in Fountainbridge has ensured its menu is easily adaptable since opening over ten years ago.
Owner Chris Loudon said: “Loudons was founded on the basis that everyone should be able to enjoy everything, our menu is designed to adapt to a whole range of dietary requirements.
“We’ve been lucky to grow a loyal and long-standing vegan and vegetarian customer base. It’s great that vegans will see their options increase when they’re looking to dine out, and the industry will continue to flex its creative muscles to keep up with demand.
“It’s fantastic to see Edinburgh recognised as a city where all lifestyles are embraced. We’ve really enjoyed seeing first-hand how the Capital’s hospitality and catering industries have celebrated different dietary requirements over the last few years.
Edinburgh’s food and drink industry will absolutely continue to grow in response to this.
“Vegan, vegetarian, dairy or gluten free aren’t really ‘new’ concepts – a lot of eateries in Edinburgh have, like Loudons, been catering for all diets for a long time.”
Vegan specific options include pakora burgers with coleslaw, benny with muffin, garlic ginger chilli fennel seed and courgette filling, spiced sultana pancakes and apple and banana cake.
Edinburgh’s Malmaison has also responded to the increase in demand with a positive response. General manager Stewart Campbell said: “Over the last couple of years we’ve seen a growing demand for vegan food and it’s important to us that we’re able to provide our guests with an excellent dining experience no matter their diet. With our latest vegan menu, we wanted to make sure we were offering our guests a range of choices, such as the aubergine, squash and red pepper bhuna or fregula pasta in a tomato and roasted red pepper sauce.”
The Capital is now behind only Bristol and Oregon’s Portland as one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, according to data collected by Chef’s Pencil using Google Trends analysis.
Corina Onet of Chef’s Pencil said: “Veganism is growing rapidly but it’s not big everywhere. If you look at cities such as Edinburgh, where veganism is very popular they all have a few things in common – they are usually cities which have a young, hip and educated population. Many are university cities or cities with a large population of artists and people working in creative industries.”