We celebrate the faces and brands you’ve chosen as your vegan superheroes
Following on from our product awards in January 2020, we thought we’d have a second round of awards – with the winners voted for entirely by you. After all, whose opinions matter more than the people actually choosing which vegan products to buy, restaurants to visit (oh those were the days), and websites to peruse?
So we narrowed down a shortlist and invited you to vote on our website for categories such as Best High Street Restaurant for Vegan Options, Best Vegan Podcast and Favourite Vegan Influencer. Thank you if you voted, as thousands of you did. We’ve number-crunched the results and here are our winners…
Best High Street Restaurant For Vegan Options: Wagamama
Wagamama have been seriously ramping up their vegan menu offerings over the last few years and are definitely leading the way when it comes to innovation in vegan food. The launch of their vegan egg, created in collaboration with vegan chef and YouTube star Gaz Oakley, was met with much excitement and was followed by other vegan-friendly dishes including vegan gyoza, ramen, pad thai and their watermelon tuna this January.
They have even expanded to cater for vegan kids by introducing mini versions of most of their popular vegan dishes on the children’s menu. They also have a London Noodle Lab, which is constantly testing out new vegan options to add to the main menu, so we’re convinced that their innovation won’t slow down any time soon. This is definitely one of the best restaurants for vegans and non-vegans being able to go out together for dinner and no one feeling left out or short-changed, so we’re not surprised it came out on top!
Best Vegan Blogger: Richard Makin, School Night Vegan
While new vegan blogs are appearing every day, there are a few that continue to stand head and shoulders above the rest. School Night Vegan is one of our absolute favourites, and we’re glad to see that it’s your favourite too! The creative talent behind the brand is Richard Makin, who has been exploring plant-based food since he become vegan in 2017.
The name, School Night Vegan, came from when he worked running London’s first artisan ice-cream sandwich van, which meant his only free time to experiment with vegan food was school nights! Richard’s site documents his experiments creating new dishes, so we’re treated to all manner of delicious and unusual recipes from main meals to sides, snacks and desserts, plus his new career as a food stylist means that the photos look absolutely stunning and even more tempting.
If you’re struggling for recipe inspiration, check out some of his most popular dishes including chunky tomato ‘meatball’ soup, banana blossom ‘fish’ tacos and vegan lime swirls with hibiscus glaze, plus turn to page 38 where he’s kindly shared a few of his recipes with us.
Favourite Influencer: Greta Thunberg
You can’t deny that Greta Thunberg has been an incredible force for change. As an environmental activist, she has campaigned against the inadequate response to climate change across the world.
Greta’s activism began in 2018 when, at the age of 15, she spent her school days outside the Swedish Parliament to call for stronger action on climate change by holding a sign reading, “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (School strike for climate). This action led to other students across the world striking under the movement named Fridays for Future.
Greta has since spoken at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit where her speech, “How Dare You”, was widely covered by the media. She’s received numerous awards including Time’s Person of the Year and the earnings from her book, No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference, a collection of her climate action speeches, were donated to charity. Her passion and determination to create change is truly captivating and has succeeded in inspiring children and adults alike across the world.
Best Vegan Support Network: Veganuary
Veganuary is a non-profit organisation that encourages people around the world to try going vegan during January (and beyond). The vision is simple – a world without farmed animals and where food production does not decimate forests, pollute rivers and oceans or exacerbate climate change. It first launched in 2014 and has grown rapidly each year since, with more than 400,000 people taking part in January 2020. Alongside this, more than 600 brands, restaurants and supermarkets promoted the campaign and launched more than 1,200 new vegan products and menus in the UK.
One of the reasons the campaign is so successful is the support that it offers throughout the month. Once you register to take part, you receive daily emails throughout January with tips, advice and encouragement, making sure you stay on track and offering support if you have a wobble. There’s also a closed Facebook group where admins and fellow sign-ups can talk and help each other, with an emphasis on support and tolerance and being a safe space from judgement. Since it first started, more than one million people have taken the Veganuary pledge across 192 countries, so we can’t emphasise enough how important Veganuary has been in getting new recruits to the vegan movement, and working with manufacturers and restaurants to help veganism become more mainstream! Worthy winners.
Highly Commended: HappyCow
Used by vegans across the world, HappyCow is an essential resource for when you’re out and about at home or on holiday! Founded in 1999, it allows you to search for plant-based and vegan options for places to eat and stay. Traditionally, people use it as a great way to find a vegan-friendly restaurant in a city they’re not too familiar with – just set your location and it will find you all the vegan-friendly restaurants in the area, telling you distance, whether it’s a completely vegan establishment or just offers vegan options, and also what type of cuisine it is.
Now it has grown beyond merely a restaurant guide to become a vegan hub that will help you plan the perfect vegan trip, letting you browse B&Bs by country and search local businesses, stores and restaurants.
Best Vegan Cookbook of 2019: Bish Bash Bosh!
With their first cookbook, BOSH! being the highest-selling vegan cookbook ever, it’s no surprise that their second book, BISH BASH BOSH! quickly became a Sunday Times Bestseller after its publication in April 2019. Childhood friends Henry Firth and Ian Theasby are the personalities behind the popular YouTube channel, with over 140,000 subscribers and over 7.5 million views, creating mind-blowing tasty recipes that are not only good for you and the planet but are also really easy to make. They even have their own ITV Sunday morning cooking show, bringing vegan cooking into the mainstream.
This award-winning book is packed with easy recipes, from quick weekday meals to plant-based lunches, show-stopping festive dinners and sweet treats. They try to keep things as simple and accessible as possible, so BISH BASH BOSH! is designed for everyone from committed, life-long vegans to those trying plant-based food for the first time. Get creative in the kitchen with recipes such as Camembosh Hedgehog, classic vegan lasagne and mini banoffee meringues.
Best Vegan Podcast: Chickpeeps
Chickpeeps is a weekly vegan podcast hosted by Harry Potter’s Evanna Lynch, and her co-stars, Momoko Hill, Robbie Jarvis and Tylor Starr. It’s a firm favourite among vegan podcasts because their fun and friendly episodes explore and discuss real problems facing the vegan community, but in a light-hearted, entertaining and accessible way.
Each episode welcomes a special vegan guest, from activists and sustainability experts to vegan influencers and doctors advocating the health benefits of a plant-based diet. With over 50 episodes available to listen to so far, they explore a wide range of topics from animal welfare and fast fashion to vegan dating, travel, zero waste and fitness, to help open up discussions about vegan lifestyles.
This podcast is not just made for vegans but also for those interested in becoming vegan. It doesn’t alienate or judge, but aims to educate and discuss philosophies and opinions. So if you’ve never listened to it before and you’re looking for something to distract you from the news and fill your days at this difficult time, give Chickpeeps a go.
Best Vegan Documentary: The Game Changers
The Game Changers follows the story of James Wilks, an elite Special Forces trainer and Ultimate Fighter winner, as he travels the world to uncover the optimal diet for human performance. The documentary showcases elite athletes, special ops soldiers, visionary scientists, cultural icons, and everyday heroes as it debunks myths, research and misconceptions associated with a meat-free diet.
Within just a week of its release on iTunes, The Game Changers became the best-selling documentary on the platform and became the trigger for many people, in particular men, to decide to explore a plant-based diet. Its star-studded cast highlighted how anyone can thrive on a vegan diet, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Lewis Hamilton, and The Game Changers showed an altogether new side of veganism and brought the facts and science of a plant-based lifestyle to the mainstream.
Best Vegan Product Launch: Greggs sausage roll
Greggs took the vegan community by storm last January when it released its Vegan Sausage Roll. Made with 96 layers of crisp puff pastry with bespoke Quorn filling, the Vegan Sausage Roll quickly became a firm favourite, selling out in the majority of stores and boosting the company’s profits by 58 per cent. The extra marketing that Piers Morgan threw its way didn’t do it any harm either!
Greggs is now proving itself an unlikely vegan champion, continuing to bring vegan food to the mainstream and releasing the Vegan Steak Bake and vegan doughnuts this year. It’s reportedly now in the process of developing vegan chicken so it can further expand its vegan offerings, and we eagerly await the launch.
Highly Commended: M&S Plant Kitchen
Another supermarket that has embraced plant-based eating with gusto is Marks and Spencer. The M&S Plant Kitchen range launched in January 2019 with 60 products including ready meals, snacks and cooking ingredients and included the first high street Vegan Coleslaw and Potato Salad, which absolutely blew people’s minds and has led to many other supermarkets catching onto the idea and launching their own versions!
Plant Kitchen has since expanded the range to include over 100 delicious meals and snacks, including the No Chicken Kiev and ToFish & Chips.
Best Chain Café/Coffee Shop For Vegan Options: Pret
As soon as Pret announced that it was launching its very first dedicated Veggie Pret store, we knew it was serious about wanting to service the veggie and vegan communities. It is now leaps and bounds ahead of other high street cafés and although there is still not a very large spread of Veggie Prets across the UK, the new vegan options developed do occasionally make it into the standard Pret stores.
As well as the usual baguettes, sandwiches and wraps, they’ve put effort into creating poke bowls, smoothie bowls and buddha bowls, so there’s plenty of choice when it comes to brightening up your lunchtimes. It also now offers the choice of soya, oat and rice-coconut milk for your coffee without any extra charge.
Best Supermarket for Vegan Options: Tesco
With only six votes in it, this category was neck and neck until the very last minute. Tesco just pipped Sainsbury’s to the post, largely thanks to its extensive dedicated plant-based ranges.
Since its launch in 2018, the Wicked Kitchen range has expanded to cover ready meals, sandwiches, meat alternatives, spices and other cooking ingredients. It’s the brainchild of brothers Chad and Derek Sarno, who are on a mission to inspire people to cook and eat more plants, but are keen to emphasise that vegan food isn’t boring!
Tesco’s latest range, the Plant Chef, offers affordable plant-based alternatives including family favourites, Battered Fish-Free Fillets and Breaded Goujons.
Highly Commended: Sainsbury’s
January 2020 saw Sainsbury’s launch their largest plant-based range to date, Plant Pioneers, which attracted attention from vegans everywhere and made them the next supermarket to watch for plant-based offerings.
The range of 31 products includes a host of fresh and frozen products, such as Vegan Steaks, Shroomdogs and various presentations of jackfruit. Plant Pioneers was created with the aim of providing delicious options to take the hassle out of cooking vegan food for vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians alike.
Best Vegan Festival: VegfestUK
For the past seven years, VegfestUK has united the vegan community in London for the biggest vegan consumer show. With 300 exhibitors, 150 speakers and as many as 14,000 attendees across the weekend, Vegfest is open to everyone, whether you are vegan, flexitarian, vegan-curious or completely new to veganism.
Previous exhibitors include Sir Paul McCartney’s campaign group Meat Free Monday and speakers have included strongman Patrik Baboumian and comedians Dave Spikey and Michael Legge. It’s a great place to shop until you drop, checking out new vegan products and smaller companies you may not have come across before, plus there’s a large ready-made food area where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner and many, many snacks in between!
Nothing quite beats the feeling of being able to go to a large event and eat everything in sight, without having to check first if it’s vegan or not!
Highly Commended: Vegan CampOut
Vegan Campout is the world’s largest family-friendly vegan camping festival. The festival includes stages with music and talks, plus spaces for activism workshops, yoga and fitness, and, of course, dozens of delicious food options.
This festival is a space where vegans can meet, socialise and expand their knowledge of veganism, plus there’s the opportunity to take part in discussions, workshops and training to raise awareness. It’s got everything you could want from a festival, but with the knowledge you’re surrounded by like-minded people and can spend the entire weekend being inspired.