Plant-based food is slated to be the hottest culinary trend of 2018, according to global food-industry experts. With the rise of conscious eating, awareness surrounding sustainability and rapidly growing health trends, it's no surprise that many restaurants and hotels are prioritising increasingly plant-based menus.

New York-based international food and restaurant consulting company Baum+Whiteman has said that restaurants are way behind the curve when it comes to the rapid consumer shift to plant-based foods, but they expect that to change in 2018.

“Millennials, Gen X and Gen Z are embracing “plant-based” food while still young, and more likely than not sticking with it. So we’re looking at a food industry divide... where plant-based products capture increasing shelf space in supermarkets but (so far) little space on restaurant menus.” They predict that in 2018, an increasing number of restaurants will offer vegan dishes.

According to research commissioned by the Vegan Society in partnership with Vegan Life magazine: In the UK, the number of people identifying as vegans has increased by 350%, compared to a decade ago. The data also shows a 600% increase in Americans identifying as vegans in the last three years. 

According to data published by Baum+Whiteman, 83% of US consumers are adding plant-based foods to their diets to improve health and nutrition. The firm also noted that 58% of adults drink non-dairy milk, and Google has seen a 90% increase in vegan searches in the past year. In addition, Google, along with Panera Bread, Hilton Hotels, Stanford University, Unilever and Sodexo, is developing “plant-forward” menu items in an effort to minimize consumption of animal-based foods.

Search data from Google Trends shows an impressive worldwide increase in the interest in veganism from 2004 to 2018. Top regions include Israel, Australia, Canada, Austria, and New Zealand.

Tourism Update, spoke to a selection of South African Hotels and Lodges about how this trend is impacting culinary tourism.

Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, Cape Town

The Executive Chef, Norman Heath, confirmed that he has seen an increase in vegan requests, and noted that his colleagues speak of this increase in the industry at large.

“Aside from alterations to our set menu, our banqueting offering has also seen an increase in dietary requests. We accommodate these requests by noting them at booking and ensuring that the guest is looked after for the duration of their stay. At present, should a walk-in guest arrive at the restaurant with dietary requirements, our Senior Chef on duty will discuss various menu options with the guest.” However, he adds that further dietary allowances are being considered for inclusion in the set menu, when it comes up for review later this year.

Tsogo Sun, South Africa

 

Ravi Nadasen, COO of Tsogo Sun hotels, said, “While we are not able to specifically quantify an increase in the number of international visitors requesting vegan options, or the demographic of the traveller requesting vegan meals, it is clear that veganism has increased, as have special dietary needs such as low-carb, gluten-free and food allergies.”

Several years ago, Tsogo Sun introduced a service called ‘Chef-on-Call’ in their premier and deluxe properties, which allows guests to communicate special requests and dietary requirements directly to the chefs in Tsogo Sun hotels.

Nadasen says, “This service was developed both as a means of personalising the service we offer to our guests as well as providing a hassle-free way for guests with dietary requirements to know that their needs will be accommodated.”

The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, Cape Town

One of the most recent establishments on the path to promoting veganism is luxury Camps Bay hotel, Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa. In 2017, Twelve Apostles introduced a vegan tasting menu and last month saw the launch of their new Vegan High Tea.

The menu changes daily depending on what’s available and in season. Savoury regulars include a variety of finger sandwiches with fillings. On the sweet side, options include Valrhone Manjari chocolate and hazelnut cake slice, a coconut pannacotta with passion fruit, scones served with jam and berry compote, banana and walnut loaf slice, or a berry cashew cheesecake (all prepared using vegan alternatives).

Tintswalo Atlantic Lodge, Cape Town

Tintswalo Atlantic recently introduced a fine dining, vegan tasting menu to cater for the growing demand from diners.

Tintswalo Atlantic Executive Chef, Guy Clark said the experience consists of an Amuse Bouche of Beetroot wonton, ginger & apple mousse, followed by a soup of Carrot & ginger, gochugaru and micro greens. “The starter of Savoury cashew ‘cheese’ cake with red onion jam and micro greens, leads to a refresher of either Granny Smith apple or Cinnamon & pineapple. Main course of Dukkah crusted polenta is served with rooibos poached sweet potato, parsnip & turmeric cream, heirloom carrots, shimeji mushroom, charred corn and a rooibos & lemon jus. Dessert is Banana parfait with nut brittle, toasted coconut flakes, berry gel and summer berries.”

The four-course tasting menu is available for lunch, or dinner to tables of a minimum of two vegan diners, and it has to be pre-booked.

Singita Luxury Africa Safari Lodges & Reserves

 

However, not all lodges are experiencing a demand for vegan culinary experiences. 

The Executive Chef at Singita Sabi Sands, Dylan Pitallo, says, “Over the last few years there has been a large increase in the dietary requests of international guests. However, we have seen a moderate increase in vegan requests, and only in the last year. There is a clear trend of guests being influenced by social media and TV towards more sustainable dietary practices, however, we have seen a greater increase in vegetarian and pescatarian requests, than vegan requests.”

He adds that when accommodating Vegan guests, Singita Sabi Sands creates suitable replacements based on the menu of the day ensuring that the full experience and variety is not compromised.