Food for thought: the growing vegan and vegetarian industries

Click to play video: 'More people are turning to plant-based diets'
More people are turning to plant-based diets

The vegan and vegetarian food industries have grown substantially over the past decade, with more people choosing a plant-based diet than ever before and more businesses popping up to meet that demand.

“The vegan and vegetarian market has exploded,” said Peterborough-based vegan advocate Natalie Stephenson. “I think Canadians are more aware of the issues around factory-farmed animal products that we have been consuming and it is time to shift culturally. The demand is there,” she said.

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Stephenson said people are turning to vegan and vegetarian diets for a number of reasons citing ethical, environmental and health benefits.

Nutritionist, Luisa Magalhaes with Peterborough Public Health said a vegan diet is healthier, if you do it properly.

READ MORE: How to survive on a vegan diet

“A vegetarian eats a lot more fruits and vegetables and legumes, so these are higher in nutrients in vitamins C and E, higher in fibre, and lower in saturated fats and cholesterol that are found in animal products,” she said.

Magalhaes said that planning is key so you ensure you are getting the proper protein nutrients. For example, vegans and vegetarians need about twice as much iron than someone who eats meat, she said.

She also said that just because something is vegan doesn’t automatically mean it is healthy.

“Any food, whether vegetarian or not, that is heavily processed often does not contain enough of the beneficial nutrients that the body requires. Ultra-processed foods have higher amounts of salt, fat and sugar than whole or minimally processed foods,” Magalhaes said.

READ MORE: Vegan Thanksgiving meal fundraises for Turkey’s new leg

And with the growth in interest, businesses are also expanding.

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“The competition in the market is really forcing creativity in the industry,” said chef Nathan White. He is opening a vegan restaurant, Nateure’s Plate, with his sister Danielle.

They specialize in “veganizing” restaurant classics and creating new recipes like meatless takes on ribs, cheese and chicken wings.

“It used to be just salad and fries and things like that,” Danielle White said. “It is nice now that you can pay for quality food that, like any other restaurant, you can’t get at home.”

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