Sunday 21 July 2019

World Vegan Day: The brands that are leading the revolution

From faux-leather handbags to beetroot burgers that 'bleed', Deirdre Reynolds celebrates World Vegan Day with a look at the brands that are leading the revolution

Aine Carlin
Aine Carlin
Veg out: Derry-born vegan food blogger, Aine Carlin

Deirdre Reynolds

Lentil soup and hemp sandals could soon be a distant memory for animal lovers. Between plant burgers that 'bleed' and fake leather, going veggie has never been easier. Perhaps that's why new figures from Bord Bia show that 8pc of Irish people are now vegetarian, while 2pc are vegan.

Today marks the 24th annual World Vegan Day around the globe. And while leatherless Doc Martens and almond milk lattes may seem like the ultimate centennial fad, the growing lifestyle choice goes back more than seven decades to when Vegan Society co-founder Donald Watson first coined the term in 1944.

Of course, steak dodgers still have their share of detractors. Waitrose Food magazine editor William Sitwell certainly didn't mince his words when he suggested "killing vegans, one by one" in an email just last week.

While a recent row over the vegan status of avocado is sure to have left the surviving ones wondering what's OK and what's 'no way' amid a paradox of choice.

From fashion to food and face cream, here we look at the new rules of veganism.


Burberry, Gucci and Versace: just a few of the fashion labels to phase out fur in 2018.

So could leather be next after vegan fashion designer Tom Ford debuted his faux crocodile skin collection at New York Fashion Week? Lab-grown leather developed by US company Modern Meadow could soon hit shelves here. Until then, look out for 'polyurethane' - better known as PU - on the label of pleather fashion garments.

"We get two or three people a week looking for vegan leather bags," says Paddy Coughlan of Designer Exchange in Dublin, where you can swap or sell pre-loved designer bags and accessories. "One customer recently de-leathered her entire wardrobe with us.

"One brand that we love to see coming in is Stella McCartney. Her iconic Falabella bag with chain detail is by far and away our most popular piece. It looks leather, but it's not leather. Whereas someone like Stella is 100pc vegan, some pleather bags may have animal by-products within the lining or charms, so people have to be careful on that front. Look for '100pc synthetic' or words to that effect."

Winter woollies meanwhile can be switched out for more sheep-friendly polar fleece or recycled polyester - also called rPET - according to PETA. The most right-on vegans will even forsake on-trend silk - made from the cocoons of silkworms - for alternatives such as soysilk this party season.


Wine o'clock is now a great time to be herbivorous.

What may come as a bigger surprise to those considering doing 'Veganuary' in two months' time is that the tipple isn't vegan to begin with. Egg whites, fish bladders and bone marrow are among the animal innards traditionally used to filter red and white wine.

As the demand for vegan booze grows however, some winemakers have started using vegan-friendly fining agents like activated charcoal instead. South African winery Org de Rac, for instance, went fully vegan in July.

"There is a small but ever-growing market for vegan wine and we're trying to be at the forefront of that," says Garret Connolly, owner of Baggot Street Wines in Dublin. "We would have around 800 wines in total, and between 25 to 40 of them are vegan-friendly."

Closer to home, Guinness removed the isinglass - or fish bladders - from all its products earlier this year, while Baileys launched an almond-milk version of its world-famous cream liqueur.


Whale vomit, shark liver oil and literal 'beetle juice' are just some of the gross-out ingredients commonly lurking in beauty products like perfume and lipstick.

But veganistas don't have to resort to rubbing beetroot on their cheeks just yet.

You can swap beeswax for sunflower wax and so on - just look at Kat Von D, whose eponymous range is both 'vegan' - completely free of any animal products - and 'cruelty-free' - not tested on animals at any stage. Confusingly, the two aren't always interchangeable, as products can be cruelty-free and vegan, cruelty-free but not vegan or even vegan but not cruelty-free.

Look for the Vegan Society trademark symbol as well as the Leaping Bunny logo to be doubly sure, advises Arnott's Head of Beauty Buying, Anne O'Neill.

"Vegan beauty products are definitely on the rise," she says. "Consumers are demanding not only natural products that are good for their skin, but are also cruelty-free and vegan. We stock a lot of vegan brands and brands where the majority of products are vegan, but not all products due to formulation challenges.

"Our most popular vegan products are The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 (€6.80) and American English 24 Karat Thickening Lotion for hair (€30)."

Needless to say, traditional make-up brushes - made using the hair of everything from goats to badgers - are a no-go, with The Body Shop's vegan ones sure to top Santa lists instead.


Got beef with supposedly bland vegan food?

Beyond Burger is one of the brands bidding to change all that with plant-based patties so believable they're even being stocked alongside the real thing in some supermarkets.

Whether vegans should want their burger to include beet juice that makes it "bleed" in the first place is another day's debate.

But the true test of Gen Z's commitment to the cause of veganism is avocados, after BBC show QI argued they're not strictly vegan due to the use of migratory bee-keeping to pollinate the crops.

By that logic, card-carrying vegans would also have to give up butternut squash, almonds and even lettuce.

Elsewhere in the dairy aisle, Swedish brand Oatly is rising to the top after causing scandal in Scandinavia with its 'It's like milk, but made for humans' tagline.

"Traditionally, the majority of our vegan sales would have been in plant-based milk alternatives, with Alpro being the brand leader here," explains Philip McDonough, Health & Food Leadership Project Manager at Musgrave Retail Partners Ireland, which operates Centra and SuperValu stores nationwide. "We're seeing demand for milk alternatives grow again in 2018. Oat is now the fastest growing plant-based milk alternative, with new brands like Oatly performing extremely well.

"Overall growth in the vegan chill area has been very strong this year at +55pc, and we aim to have a vegan chill area across 100 SuperValu stores by the end of the year."

There's even something for cheat day after Goodfella's launched its first vegan frozen pizza earlier this year, and Ben & Jerry's introduced a dairy-free version of its cult Chunky Monkey ice-cream.

Irish Independent

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