What does technology have to do with eating plants?

Insight Published on 11 February 2020

Veganism is a really hot topic...

I mean who hasn’t heard of Veganuary, a massive growing trend each year? In January 2019, 250,000 people pledged to go vegan in January under the Veganuary campaign and who knows what the 2020 number will be. While Veganuary doesn’t convert everyone to a vegan lifestyle, many opt for the increasingly popular ‘flexitarian’ diet, which involves a more environmentally sustainable approach to their diet, by reducing meat, fish and dairy consumption.

Only a few years ago, vegans were stereotyped as cabbage-munching hippies who grew their own produce to source their plant eating lifestyle. Harsh? Definitely – but clearly this perception has changed over the years. It is estimated that there are 600,000 vegans in the UK and growing, and it is projected that by 2025, vegans and vegetarians will account for 25% of the population. A study compiled by The Vegan Society shows that this change has been driven by people making the choice to opt for a healthier and environmentally friendly diet which eliminates animal products.

How does technology support veganism?

As veganism increases in popularity; the link between vegans and technology continues to grow. Given there is an app for almost everything, it will come as no surprise that app developers have designed a selection of creative solutions to assist people with their vegan lifestyle.

The app ‘HappyCow’ offers users advice on where to find local plant-based restaurants/cafes and has recently developed an online hub which has attracted over 250,000 users. Other popular apps include ‘AirVegan’, which gives information on what vegan food is available in airports. ‘Is it Vegan’ helps simplify food labelling, by allowing users to scan the package label to reveal a list of food ingredients, enabling the user to ascertain whether vegan or not. ‘V Nutrition’ helps ensure a nutritionally balanced and wholesome diet.

Social media has played a considerable part in the popularity of plant-based eating.  I know that my personal Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with influencers and bloggers offering their culinary ideas and #accidentallyvegan foods. One of the first people to capitalise on vegan social media was Ella Woodward – also known as Deliciously Ella. She promotes a squeaky clean, plant-based lifestyle and through being an early adopter of social media, she has become a household name.

In 2018 VeganNation was founded with the aim to create a fully functioning ecosystem that enables the estimated 300 million vegans from around the world to connect into a global community on one platform. Using the ‘Vegancoin’ – a cruelty-free sustainable digital currency, members can purchase vegan-verified services from an online marketplace. Committed vegan and Game of Thrones actor, Jerome Flynn is a director of VeganNation and has been promoting the importance of the Vegancoin.

Although not yet available to the commercial market, synthetic meat (or cultured meat) is soon to make a breakthrough in our restaurants and supermarkets.  The lab grown ‘meat’ is created from animal cells rather than a live animal and it is hoped will be an alternative to traditional meat. Watch this space as synthetic meat has attracted investments from high-profile names including Bill Gates and Richard Branson.

With malnutrition, limited resources and environmental issues being linked to the globalisation and industrialisation of food, technology investors have also invested billions into companies that focus on alternative sources of sustenance. Chilean company, NotCo has developed a computer programme called Giuseppe, which identifies plant species that resemble the molecular structure of animal products and can be used as meat alternatives.

Final thoughts…

The future does look vegan and the tech sector will support it. Many scientists believe there is still a lot to learn about diet, nutrition and environmental factors hence why we turn to technology to help us decipher this complex area. With the increasing popularity in healthy eating, part-time veganism might well become a full-time fixture in many people’s lives.

Being a vegetarian myself for over 30 years, I do admire vegans.  I would love to hop on the plant-based diet, but my weekends would never be the same without family sized packs of chocolate, and I have tried many times to convince myself I don’t need milk in my coffee, I don’t; but I do! And don’t get me started on cheese…

Topics

  • Technology