World Vegetarian Day is also part of Vegetarian Awareness Month - a time for those who want to give going meat-free a try or for those who want to celebrate their vegetarian or plant-based diets. World vegetarian day was founded in 1977 by the North American Vegetarian Society and endorsed by the International Vegetarian Union in 1978. This blog runs through the brief history of vegetarianism and in turn, how this impacts or disrupts the food industry.
Where did vegetarianism begin?
Some of the first claimed vegetarians were the Pythagoreans – derived from the Greek philosopher Pythagoras. It’s unclear whether he followed a strict meatless diet but in historical documents, it has been found that they expressed some of the same arguments regarding vegetarianism that people still use today.
Although it’s likely that people abstained from eating meat before Pythagoras (plants would have formed the basis of diets), the rise in vegetarianism likely occurred during classical times. The term vegetarian arose after the first vegetarian society was born in 1847. In 1850, the American Vegetarian Society was founded in New York, USA. This was followed by the arrival of the first vegetarian church in Salford by William Cowherd – he believed that God inhibited animals, so it would be a sin to eat them.
As time went on, vegetarianism gained momentum as influential people contributed to the movement. For example, John Harvey Kellogg (creator of Cornflakes) was a strong advocate for vegetarianism. Benjamin Franklin encouraged vegetarianism for a short while, promoting its economic benefits as it saved money. By the end of the 19th century, the vegetarian movement was thriving and in 1889 there were 52 vegetarian restaurants in Britain.
During the late 19th century and early 20th century, vegetarian cookbooks began to be released and then as the movement progressed – cookbooks addressed the lack of protein in vegetarian diets and encouraged proteins such as beans and grains. The history of vegetarianism is much more complex than this, however, it shows that vegetarianism has been going for a long time and always had influential advocates.
With vegetarianism is on the rise, trends such as Veganuary are starting to emerge – people try out the vegan lifestyle for January and see how they fare cutting out animal products. According to latest research by Kantar, around 29% of evening meals contain no meat or fish. In January, 1 out of 10 ready meals bought were vegetarian, increasing sales by 15%.
So how has vegetarianism impacted the food industry?
Vegetarianism and, in particular, veganism are predicted to disrupt food production in 2018/19 as the vegan British population has grown to 3%. Flexitarians (those who try to consume less meat) are also on the rise and are expected to consume and purchase less meat. It’s evident that vegetarianism and veganism is impacting the industry with shops like Marks & Spencer have introduced vegan ranges and Zizzi have begun to offer vegan pizzas.
People are more food-conscious than ever and are able to research and access information more easily, so it is not surprising that people change their eating habits more regularly and are able to follow trends. Platforms like Netflix are bringing influential documentaries which show the impact of animal agriculture, proving to be a successful way of gaining attention. It seems like vegetarianism and veganism is not going to slow down and manufacturers and developers within the food industry will need to adapt their products to the changing consumer preferences.
At Foster’s Bakery, all our products are vegetarian apart from our cheese scones. We offer a range of products from focaccia to sourdough. Some of our products are shown below: