Veganism in the UAE

Veganism in the UAE

Although veganism is not new, it has become one of the most talked about topics in recent times due to the boom in health and wellness, as well as environmental concerns. Abdul Kader Saadi, managing director of Glee Hospitality,, lifts the lid on veganism in the UAE and how the F&B sector is meeting local demand for meat substitues.

Specific food rituals and practices have made the leap into more mainstream dietary practices in recent years. Trends such as the ketogenic and Atkins diets have gained popularity, challenging the normal approach to food and diet options that would have previously been thought of as unconventional. However, no other dietary practice has garnered as much momentum and attention as veganism. The ever growing global food trend of veganism has experienced a significant increase in followers. In the United States, for example, we saw an estimated rise in vegans from 1 percent of the population in 2014 to somewhere between 6 and 7 percent by 2017, according to GlobalData. While other research has estimated the number to be closer to 4 percent, there can be no argument that the veganism movement has been seeing significant growth year on year. In the UK, data published by the shopping comparison site in January 2021 revealed that the  number of vegans in Britain increased by 40 percent during 2020, from 1.1million to 1.5million. In other words, global veganism has now evolved from a trending fad into an extremely lucrative market with significant potential. As a result, vendors, restaurateurs and F&B operators have begun to realize just how profitable this segment is. We live in a digital age where global trends spread like wildfire. One of the hottest topics is well-being, and this is particularly evident online. Alternative lifestyles and health hacks are frequently promoted via nutritionists, fitness enthiusiasts and other people who actively share advice on recommended regimes and diet plans to promote better health. This is one key area where the vegan movement has made significant gains, with several people boasting about the benefits of a vegan diet versus traditional diets that are high in animal-derived saturated fats and dairy.

As recipes and meat substitutes have become more sophisticated, a greater number of people have opted to go vegan. Another factor that has played a crucial role in the vegan movement is the abundance of online information available to today’s consumers. With access to a raft of information, consumers today have become far more discerning and critical of where their food is coming from and whether it is being ethically produced. It is not uncommon for consumers to question the standards and sustainability practices of their coffee brands, for example, and suppliers have in turn made great effort to advertise their compliance with these demands through clear labeling and certification. Furthermore, the meat industry has been criticized by a growing percentage of the market that considers it to be unethical and detrimental to the environment. Data displaying the environmental cost of cultivating livestock to meet international demand has led many people to pursue a meat-free lifestyle and lobby for tighter controls to quell the negative environmental impact. Demand drives supply in any market, and the vegan market’s increased worldwide demand has been a driving force in F&B supplier behavior. This trend has affected the market at numerous levels, with fast-food chains now offering a variety of vegan and vegetarian options. Renowned coffee brands are also providing dairy alternatives, such as soy, almond and oat milk, as staples on their menus. Moreover, a far greater selection of brands are now offering meat alternative options to consumers. The range of vegan meat substitutes has increased considerably, both in terms of flavor profile and replication (i.e. vegan subsitutes have become more convincing and just as satisying as nonvegan options). In 2009, Beyond Meat was launched in Los Angeles, offering a completely plant-based range of meat alternatives, including burgers, sausages, ground beef and meatballs, among other items. The company released a number of meat subsitutes for Carls Jr, Del Taco, KFC and other fast-food brands, which were all met with positive reviews in the market. According to research conducted by The Trefis Team, in line with Beyond Meat’s current market growth trends, the company is projected to reach USD 1 billion in revenue by 2030. In 2018, Beyond Burger made its market debut in the UAE. Today, it is sold directly in large grocery stores and on menus of fast-food brands to UAE consumers. In 2021, Brazil-based vegan startup Future Farm launched its latest product, Future Chicken, in leading supermarket chains across the UAE. Earlier this year, Spinneys launched the Power of Plants initiative with brands including V-Bites, Linda McCartney, Meatless Farm, Beyond Meat, Amnimeat Violife and Quorn. As of 2021, there are in excess of 18 vegan-friendly restaurants and a rapidly growing number of traditional fastfood franchises that now offer vegan alternatives to the UAE market. It’s safe to say that veganism has passed the point of being merely a fad within the country. The UAE has historically embraced innovation and change. With the veganism trend, we are seeing the local market evolve into a hub that is not only catering to but is also revolutionizing the vegan market as it grows stronger locally.


Abdul Kader Saadi,
Managing Director and owner
Glee Hospitality Solutions

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