I am a vegetarian, and I am fed up.
What’s that, I hear you cry? Lack of energy from a protein-poor diet getting you down? Stress over what to take to the next communal barbeque keeping you awake at night?
No, meat eaters. This, in fact, is what’s making me fed up:
I’ve been a vegetarian all my life. I love vegetarian food. I know that it can be nutritious, delicious and exciting. But I’ll be honest – you wouldn’t know it from these brands.
To me, these brands represent a vegetarianism that I, a 90s baby, have never experienced. They shout unimaginative, throwback vegetarianism. Dried lentils and stale nut roasts. Exclusionary, Meat-Is-Murder vegetarianism.
(Morrissey, if you’re reading this, I apologise. You are a lyrical genius but I find your brand of vegetarianism old-fashioned and hostile)
Today’s vegetarianism is not black and white. It’s not beige either. It’s colourful. There are so many different types of food from all corners of the world that we are lucky enough to be able to taste and enjoy and that is why, 25 years in, I am still being excited and surprised by vegetarian food every week.
And what’s more, the idea of what makes a ‘vegetarian’ is not so black and white either. For better or worse, people are cutting out only certain types of meat, turning veggie for the month of January or for a day a week, becoming a vegetarian for health reasons as well as ethical ones. In 2013, a quarter of the British public had cut back on meat in the past year, and over a third were willing to consider eating less meat in the future*.
So much so that in 2003, ‘flexitarian’ (someone who eats a vegetarian diet, with the occasional inclusion of meat or fish products) was voted as the year’s most useful word**.
That was 13 years ago.
There is a massive opportunity here. And yet, scanning the shelves in my Sainsbury’s Local last night, late home from work and hungry for something quick, meat-free and inspiring, I was faced yet again with a lacklustre array of packs, screaming browns and beiges at me.
Vegetarianism has rebranded itself. It’s time for the veggie brands to catch up.
**American Dialect Society