Celebrating World Vegetarian Month

The 1st of October marks the start of World Vegetarian Month, and the perfect opportunity to discover how delicious, enjoyable and easy it is to increase the proportion of plant foods within our meals while doing good for animals, our surroundings and our health.

At a growing scale, New Zealand is seeing a spike in ethically produced, sustainably sourced, plant-based proteins. The key driver behind this flourishing assortment of vegan options both in New Zealand and worldwide is the abundance of people adopting a flexible approach to vegetarian eating. This has seen the rise of the ‘flexitarian' and the ‘reducer' who thrive off a predominantly plant-based diet but are not strict on it.

A report by Colmar Brunton last year revealed that just over a quarter of Kiwis cut animal products from their diets some of the time, most, or all of the time. The exclusion of meat from an increasing number of meals is becoming common practice and is playing a significant role in shaping the positive perceptions around plant-based foods.

Consumers are increasingly concerned about the impact their food choices have and this is causing a growing number of people to make the conscious decision to reduce their meat intake. As more of us choose to vote with our wallets animal agribusinesses are investing in research on plant-proteins and food tech. 

A somewhat "casual" approach to an ethical diet is often critiqued by vegans and vegetarians for not taking a hard line with their ethics and eliminating meat and other animal products completely. The fact is that the growing number of people who incorporate vegetarian meals regularly are making a huge, positive difference for animals. Vegans and vegetarians have meat-reducers to thank for the abundance of vegan businesses and plant-based products launching, what seems like every other day.

This topic was discussed at New Zealand's first ProteinTech conference in July, where Dr Jocelyn Eason of Plant & Food Research emphasised that flexitarians are paving the way for a plant-rich future.

New Zealanders are compassionate people, we have a great love for animals and take huge pride in protecting the beautiful country we live in. We are appalled at the idea of animals being harmed or at the thought of degradation of our waterways and land. This being said, many Kiwi's would find the thought of giving up meat or animal products a hard one to swallow.

Starting with a flexible approach by reducing and cutting out animal products eases us in to change. This method has been proven to be efficient when adopting new habits and makes us less likely to revert to old ones. It also takes the pressure off if there is a slip up because we can move on and start again until we nail it.

There is a great buzz around the potential of plant-based proteins. Alternatives to animal products are almost everywhere you turn. From vegan pies at your local Z Energy and BP Stations to vegan-friendly options at Burger Fuel, Hells and Dominoes Pizza. There is even Chicken-Free Chicken in supermarket freezers, a product developed by the Kiwi start-up Sunfed, comprised entirely of pea protein and contains 62% more protein than chicken meat.

The idea of incorporating more plant-oriented meals into our diets is further encouraged by the abundance of research outlining the array of benefits that reducing the intake of animal product permits. Research suggests that low-meat diets improve metabolic health, blood pressure, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and assist in the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease. Bowel Cancer New Zealand is backing the idea of piling your plate with veggies. The organisation promotes an annual Meat Free Week campaign, encouraging Kiwis to cut-out meat for a week while highlighting the health benefits of long-term meat reduction. 

The ever-expanding and innovative plant-based food sector provide us with an opportunity to make compassionate decisions that not only benefit the wellbeing of animals but also ourselves and the planet we live on.

1 October 2018