As the vegetarian market flexes its muscles, fish and chip shops are beginning to offer new and exciting products to cater for this growing sector
According to a Mori report there are now more than half a million vegans and 1.14 million vegetarians in the UK, while the number of flexitarians - those opting for vegetarian or vegan options a few times a week - is also growing, with one in three saying they avoid meat ‘most of the time’.
It’s a trend that is very clear in retail with supermarkets dedicating more aisle space to meat and dairy free produce. But it’s not only confined to retail, Just Eat reported a 987% increase in demand for vegetarian food across its partner restaurants in 2017 with a third now offering plant-based options on their menus.
With attitudes changing, is it possible for the fish and chip shop market to better cater for this growing market? Gordon Lauder, MD of frozen food distributor Central Foods, thinks so.
“With demand for vegan and vegetarian items growing, it makes good commercial sense for fish and chip shop owners to offer a good selection of non-meat items.
“Clearly many customers visit fish and chip shops to buy fish and chips or chicken and chips, or something similar, but very often within a group or a family there will be someone who is vegan or vegetarian.”
BEAN BURGER WITH SPICE
Ideal for fish and chip outlets is KaterVeg, an uncoated Spicy Beanburger, which can be served alongside a portion of chips or inside a roll or bun. Suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Central Foods 01604 858 522 www.centralfoods.co.uk
Coopers Fish Bar in Coventry is one of the growing number of fish and chip shops which has shifted from simply “dabbling” in the odd option to introducing a dedicated vegetarian menu. Owner Basi Basra has seen a sharp rise in sales, commenting: “I always had vegetarian options on the menu,” says Basi, “but I was doing it in a little pan at the back of the shop and the customer would have to wait as the demand just wasn’t there to dedicate a pan on the range to vegetarian food.
“Where we are in Coventry we get a lot of students and they were asking more and more for vegetarian options or asking how we cook our food. The demand was there, so I thought let’s do it properly.”
Sourcing quality products such as soya burgers, halloumi burgers and vegetarian sausages, dedicating a pan on the range and using separate utensils, it’s taken Basi some time to get used to the new routine, adding: “It’s not always ideal having to keep a pan free just for vegetarians as there are some shifts where we don’t get any orders, but if that’s the case I can cook chips in it.”
The menu, which is promoted in the window, is proving popular and on a Friday night Coopers can get up to 20 vegetarian orders with the soya burger its best seller. Basi adds:“Having the vegetarians keeps the shop busier, it’s driving custom and that increased trade is now making it easier to offer the vegetarian options.”
Another shop which has added to its vegetarian option recently is Hird’s Family Fisheries in Halifax, West Yorkshire. While things like halloumi, pineapple fritters and mac and cheese have been on the menu for a while, owner Adam Hird is experimenting with some signature dishes such as his Five a Day - five deep fried vegetables available individually for £1.60 or together for £2.50.
“We have found it is a growing market and there’s more and more demand for vegetarian dishes. But it’s not just vegetarians which are choosing these dishes, we find that customers are enjoying trying something different and new. And it’s great for us too as we make better margins on the vegetables than the fish.”
Using a dedicated pan on his three pan range for the veggie dishes, Adam has found most of the vegetarian dishes are suitable for the shop’s gluten free customers as well, which helps him tap into another market at the same time.
SOWING THE SEEDS FOR MENU IDEAS
Vegetarian Express, the UK’s first and only dedicated plant-based foodservice business, has created the Seedbank, an online recipe service.
The extensive recipe collection can be filtered by meal occasion, world flavour inspiration, or main ingredient for example, and each dish features a full ingredient list and detailed method of preparation. Recipes can be downloaded and have been fully analysed nutritionally with allergen and diet sensitivities listed alongside. Everything from grab and go quick meals to fine dining dishes are included.
Vegetarian Express 01923 249714 www.vegetarianexpress.co.uk
At Millers in Haxby, York, its vegetarian menu evolved from offering gluten free options, as Nick explains: “We cook in beef dripping but when we started offering gluten free we added a vegetable oil pan as we found the liquid oil easier to manage as it wasn’t solidified, so we didn’t have to wait as long for it to heat up. We then found a lot of customers were asking for the vegetarian chips and it’s developed from there really.”
Looking at expanding the vegetarian offering, Millers is working on a vegetarian curry sauce and a halloumi burger. Nick adds: “We’re fully embracing the vegetarian options now and looking what else we can do so that if there is a member of a family who is vegetarian, they can all enjoy a meal out together at Millers.”
Again, it’s not just vegetarians that are buying the meat free options, with many customers asking for the veggie items but cooked in beef dripping. Nick adds: “We give our customers all the information, tell them what we sell and how we cook it and then it’s up to them to decide what they want to eat.”