2020 was particularly hard for the foodservice industry and 2021 doesn’t look any better. The good news is that businesses who survived the global pandemic will probably live to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Things are looking especially good for companies involved in vegan food. By 2026, the market is expected to reach $31.4 billion, at a CAGR of approximately 10-11% (2019-2016).

To survive, one must adapt, which means catching the food trends as they come. For 2021, it’s all about the vegan diet, but with a twist — this will be the year for part-time vegans to take their place in the food chain.

Since the topic of vegan nutrition often provokes an almost acrimonious discussion for the radical camps of supporters and opponents in advance: it is not about coercion and also not a substitute religion either, it is not about depriving people of the enjoyment of their favorite food. And yes, not everything in the vegan world is perfect, from highly processed foods to fruits and vegetables that are not sustainably produced; the market is evolving.

But, and this should be the main idea, a (partially) vegan diet can help us get better at sustainability. This is where we are literally running out of time.

Here is why part-time vegans will rock the foodservice industry in 2021 and beyond.

Nothing is Just Black or White

For a time, we all thought being vegan was an all-or-nothing proposition, and it kinda is, but when it comes to having healthier habits, you can choose how committed you want to be. Just like working out, you can choose to spend every morning at the gym or just take a spinning session two times a week.

People have realized they can turn their vegan switch on and off, which is absolutely positive. Eating less meat, even if you enjoy a good steak now and then, is already better for your health and the environment. The focus here is on good in the sense of animal-friendly production and with a known origin. The aim is to give a foodstuff like meat back the value it once had and which it deserves.

The meatless Monday trend is a great example, and the foodservice can capitalize on this goodwill by offering more plant-based alternatives. How? With more and more varied vegan food that’s as tasty as it is good for you.

In a way, restaurants were the first part-time vegans since they first started offering both vegan and non-vegan options to their customers. Today if you’re not catering the vegetarian and vegan diets, you’re losing your place on the market.

Eating In will Still Be the Norm

With the COVID-19 experiencing a comeback despite the promise of vaccines arriving to save the day soon, chances are the restaurant industry will take some time to recover. With social distancing restrictions still in place in most countries, eating in will still be the norm.

This means people either cook their own food or order their meals online with their phones. The thing with ordering food online is that the customer has one hundred options at its fingertips. After months of binge-eating junk food during 2020, the customers are now looking for the healthiest alternatives, which partially means vegan food.

2020 was all about gaining a few extra pounds for the stress of not leaving home; 2021 will be about losing those pounds and getting back in shape. At least that’s what delivery app stats are showing.

Vegan Meat is More Available than Ever

Beyond Meat took the world of food by storm in 2012, with meatless proteins covering everything from chicken-free strips to meatballs, burger patties, sausages and much more. Almost ten years after their launch, non-animal based meats are finally hitting the mainstream, mainly because of the foodservice industry adopting them.

Along with soy chorizo, seitan, jackfruit, and the famous plant-based Impossible Burger, the vegan offer is more varied and available than ever. They’re not only for people following the vegan diet; they’re for everyone because the stuff tastes good!

Even tofu is cool again, and we’re just getting started. If you’re not looking at these meat alternatives for your next menu, you’re missing out. They’ll not only align your business with the current health and environmental trends, but they’re also delicious, and that means returning customers. This is a textbook win-win situation.

Vegan Prawn by Happy Ocean Foods (© Happy Ocean Foods)

Plant-Based Seafood is Here to Stay

If you think plant-based meat is impressive, wait until you see the wide selection of non-animal seafood hitting the market this year. The Plant-Based Seafood Company, Save Da Sea, New Wave Foods, and Shiok Meats, amongst others, are booming companies that will capitalize on a pretty obvious market opportunity — guilt-free seafood.

If you think breeding cattle is bad for the environment, wait until you see what intensive fishing is doing to the oceans. The sad truth is that biodiversity in the ocean has declined by 39% in the last 40 years and 100 million tons alone creates 38.5 million tons of bycatchOverfishing is a serious problem for all of us. Farmed fish is not much better either, and if we don’t do anything about it soon, we can all forget about seafood altogether.

How does smoked salmon made of plants sound? Or how about 100% plant-based shrimp with zero cholesterol? And how to say no to some deliciously tender lobster and crab cakes? There’s a lot happening here: the startup Happy Ocean Foods, for example, has developed shrimp that are not only vegan, but also damn tasty!

Vegan Eggs: That’s the Answer to ‘What’s For Breakfast’?

Breakfast is going vegan too, and it’s a great opportunity for part-time vegans to have at least a vegan meal every day. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right?

There are plenty of vegan egg options to try. JUST’s vegan egg is made from mung beans, and they’re many times more sustainable than regular eggs. Orgran Foods vegan Easy Egg is lovely when scrambled, and the Terra Vegane Egg-free omelet mix is ideal for restaurants. Finally, there’s the Follow Your Heart VeganEgg, made with soy milk powder. You can cook them any way you want and even bake with them.

If you’re not already using organic, free-range chicken eggs, you’re out of the money, but the next step is going all-out vegan. See the options available for you and capitalize on the trend today.

More Options – More Versatility

Deep down, we all feel going vegan is the right way to go, not only for our health but for the environment. Of course, the vegan lifestyle is a big commitment, and most of us are not there yet; and they don’t need to get there.

This doesn’t mean we can’t become part-time vegans; the trend for 2021 is eating better but with flexibility. Even if you ate non-animal-based food for dinner once a week, you’d already be making quite an impact. Again, it is not about forcing people to eat a different diet, that would make no sense and only provokes resistance. What does make sense, however, is that the vegan food market is exciting, can be fun, and even tastes delicious.

For the foodservice industry, it’s our job to provide those alternatives. Vegan-friendly menus will have an edge this year and they will have beyond 2021 for sure as well – and this is just the beginning. So relax and hop on the vegan trend once a while because this year will be quite a ride!


© Sascha Barby, 2021. All rights reserved. Title photo by itNish Media on Unsplash

In personal designations, the masculine designation has been chosen for better readability, which includes the feminine on an equal footing.

Sascha Barby

Sascha Barby

Sascha's passion for food and the foodservice industry has driven him since he first worked in the kitchen. Projects abroad and the diversity of the industry have only increased his enthusiasm. Started as a Chef in various restaurants in Germany and Canada, completing his skills with an MBA, he now works at Rational AG in marketing.  Sascha lives with his wife and children in Bavaria near Munich.