No longer confined to the fringes of society, veganism is set to become a more mainstream lifestyle choice in 2018.
Around the Northern Rivers region, vegans and vegan food is abundant. However there aren’t hard statistics available on the actual number of those following a vegan lifestyle in Australia.
If we follow the money, Australia is now the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world, after the United Arab Emirates and China. According to market researcher Euromonitor International, Australia's packaged vegan food market is currently worth more than $135 million and is expected to reach $215 million by 2020.
Between 2012 to 2016, according to Roy Morgan Research, the number of Australian adults whose diet was all or almost all vegetarian has risen from 1.7 million people to almost 2.1 million or 11.2 per cent of the population.
While it’s becoming a nationwide trend, the shift towards vegetarianism has been most striking in New South Wales, where there has been a 30 per cent growth in those following a vegetarian diet.
A vegan is someone who rejects meat or animal products. However there are strict vegans who won’t touch sugar because in some cases it can be processed with bone char. Then there are vegans at the other end of the scale who might eat the odd egg from their chooks or spoonful of honey from their own bee hives.
According to the Vegan Society, modern-day veganism started in the 1940s when a guy called Donald Watson met with a group of other non-dairy vegetarians to discuss their lifestyle and what they should be labelled. After rejecting names such as ‘dairyban’ and ‘benevore’ they settled on vegan, the first three and last two letters of vegetarian.
However, rejecting animal consumption has been around for more than 2000 years. Greek philosopher and mathematician, Pythagoras promoted kindness amongst all species and followed what was essentially a vegetarian diet. Around the same time, Siddhārtha Gautama, better known as Buddha, was discussing vegetarian diets with his followers.
We hit the streets and spoke to the owners of insanely popular café, Flock in Lismore. Sarah Jones and Kim Strow started Flock in a small arcade in 2013 and when the 2017 floods hit they lost nearly everything. With some help from the community and a lot of soul searching, they took the opportunity to take over a much bigger premises on Woodlark Street and it has gone from strength to strength.
“When we opened we actually started as a vegetarian café and in the first six months, when we were testing out our menu, our customers were asking for both meat and vegan options,” Sarah said.
“Now around 40 per cent of our menu would be vegan and you can also alter many of our options to be vegan.
“I think veganism is growing in popularity but it seems to go in waves. Last year there definitely seemed to be a spike in the number of vegans,” Sarah said.
This may have had something to do with documentary, What the Health, released in 2017, which brought veganism into the mainstream media and many a dinner party conversation. The film looked at the health and environmental impacts of meat and dairy product consumption, and questioned the practices of the leading health organisations as well as major food and pharmaceutical companies.
Along with vegan food, vegan or natural wine is also gaining popularity.
Local Clunes winemaker, Jared Dixon from Jilly Wines said, “Most wines aren’t vegan because they’re made with animal products which are used to fine a wine and help in stabilisation and clarification of the wine.
“The animal products generally used for this are milk, isinglass which is fish guts, egg whites or gelatine.
“I don't use anything to clarify my wines other than natural stability from malolactic fermentation where lactic acid bacteria convert malic to lactic acid.
“In addition, the cool months in winter help to stabilise my wines naturally.
“I also only ever move my wines on the full moon because the gravitational pull at this time is at its strongest so anything suspended in solution will tend to settle better at this time.
Jilly Wines has seen the financial benefits from producing vegan-style wines with top class restaurants, Fleet in Brunswick Heads, Three Blue Ducks, Roadhouse, DUK and St Elmo in Byron, Harvest in Newrybar and Shelter at Lennox Heads, all stocking his wines.
Jilly Wines are also being sought after internationally with Japan taking quite a chuck of wine this year.
“The natural and organic wine scene is growing at a rapid rate in Japan,” Jared said.
Where to eat and drink vegan
Flock Espresso & Eats – 49 Woodlark Street, Lismore
7 days a week 6:30am – 4:30pm
As mentioned above, nearly half their menu is vegan or can be altered to be vegan. They have a good range of salads and raw vegan treats and they are really filling and yummy.
20 000 Cows – 58 bridge Street, Lismore (Vegan restaurant)
Wednesday to Saturday 6:30pm – 9:00pm
This restaurant is a Lismore institution offering vegan fare and there’s suggested prices for the food items. It has a great philosophy and vibe. You feel as though you’re sitting in someone’s lounge room.
Clunes Store, Café & Cellars - 33 Main Street Clunes
Café open 7 days 7:00am – 2:00pm
The Clunes Store, Café and Bottleshop definitely punch above their weight in terms of their range of vegan food and wine options.
Harvest Newrybar 18-22 Old Pacific Hwy, Newrybar
Restaurant open Mon-Fri 12pm-11pm and Sat-Sun 8am-11pm
Set in the quaint village of Newrybar, Harvest is a beautiful place to dine. They have a focus on local and Australian bush foods. The dinner menu has more vegan options than the lunch menu.
The Beet - Shop 6, 90 – 96 Jonson Street, Byron Bay (Vegan restaurant)
Monday – Saturday 6:30pm – 9:00pm
The Beet Vegan Restaurant serve healthy plant-based meals in a modern restaurant in Byron. They have the usual pizza, burgers and pasta but all with a distinct vegan feel.
Manna Haven - 97 Jonson Street, Byron Bay (Vegetarian restaurant)
Sunday – Friday 11:00am – 3:00pm
Manna Haven focus on whole-food plant based meals made from fresh, wholesome and natural ingredients. They serve a range of vegan and vegetarian meals, desserts and smoothies.
Three Blue Ducks at The Farm - 11 Ewingsdale Rd, Ewingsdale
Restaurant opening times
No visit to Byron is complete, especially with kids, without a visit to The Farm. You can wander through the farm and check out where your food comes from or sit back and relax in the industrial-sheike restaurant. While there is quite a focus on meat, there are vegan and gluten free options for breakfast lunch and dinner.
Shelter Café and Restaurant - 41 Pacific Parade, Lennox Head
Sunday – Wednesday 6:30am – 3:00pm
Thursday – Saturday 6:30am – 10:30pm
Shelter is a beachside café and restaurant with great coffee and a relaxed feel. They have a couple of vegan options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
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