October 20, 2018 6:19 pm

Vegan festival feeds Montreal’s ever-growing demand for plant-based food

Thousands came out for the fifth annual Montreal Vegan Fest. As Brayden Jagger-Haines reports, the event is about much more than trendy treats.

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When the organizers of Montreal’s annual Vegan Festival moved this year’s event from the Bonsecours Market to the Palais des Congrès, they thought they had learned from last year’s mistake.

However, even in the new, larger venue, thousands of people turned up to the free festival, and by midday perusing its 160 kiosks was a challenge.

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“Veganism is getting very, very popular, especially in big cities,” said festival pokesperson Jean-Philippe Cyr.

Cyr, also known as the Buddhist Chef, says the vegan lifestyle has come into the mainstream, a trend he says is proven by the ever-growing popularity of Vegan Festival.

Cyr says he has seen greater interest in veganism over the years, particularly in Montreal, with its younger student population and several universities.

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However, this year’s Vegan Festival drew a range of people, young and old.

“The times are changing,” Cyr said.

“My parents are getting interested in veganism as well, and they have been eating meat all their lives.”

Vegan delicacies were the main draw for many in attendance.

One popular kiosk — and also a sponsor of the event — was Montreal-based company Gusta.

The three-year-old company, which operates out of the Jean-Talon Market, put out free samples of their pizzas and sausages.

“Most of the people are really excited,” said Gusta sales director Frédéric Boucher. “Because they can find a taste they remember when they weren’t eating meat.”

Boucher says the company aims to make comfort foods like burgers, hot dogs and cheese available for vegans.

“We can do everything that is close to the heart of a lot of people who turned vegan or vegetarian and want the option of dirty comfort food,” Boucher said.

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Vegan alternatives like creams, beauty products, clothes and Tupperware were only some of the many things on display at the festival.

Julie and Mark Fall came from Ottawa for the day with their two children to browse the many items at the festival.

The vegan family says the two-hour drive is worth finding new ideas, products and recipes outside their city.

“Not everything makes it to Ottawa. Some companies are introducing new things here and so it’s an opportunity to see outside the scope of our city,” said Mark.

READ MORE: The hottest trends in vegetarian food

“We’re not militant vegans,” he added.

Mark believes the vegan lifestyle and diet have become much easier to follow over the years, and Cyr agrees.

“There are more and more vegan restaurants in Montreal,” Cyr said. “Every week, it seems like there is a new one and it’s packed.”

Cyr says he has seen a shift in people’s buying habits, with shoppers being more environmentally conscious.

“(Veganism) does have health benefits, it does have environmental benefits. There is a lot of good to it,” said Julie.

The 2018 Vegan Festival is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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