Plant-based menus: trend to movement

This is the time when top ten 2017 food trends are forecasted by respected researchers, marketing organizations and food industry representatives. Retailers, foodservice establishments, concessionaires and the media all pay close attention to these reports and consider these “trends” as they plan new menus for the upcoming year.

One common item in the trend reports for 2017 is the focus on plant-based foods and menus, and an important secondary aspect of that trend is the highlighted consumer group: flexitarians. That is to say, this trend is happening among mainstream consumers who are reducing their meat or dairy consumption.

Here are some interesting examples highlighting this trend:

  • A new trade group, the Plant Based Foods Association, was established earlier this year to represent makers of proteins derived from plant-based sources. An industry lobby is now in place.
  • Tyson Foods just launched a $150 million VC fund called Tyson New Ventures to invest in meatless foods and technology.
  • Hampton Creek‘s eggless Just Mayo continues to disrupt the food industry and now Hellman’s is creating an eggless mayo of their own. Meanwhile, Hampton Creek’s eggless-egg has been replacing eggs in all kinds of packaged products.
  • Bill Gates is one of the big VC investors in plant based protein technology, including the meatless Impossible Burger which is now highlighted on the menu at Jardiniere, a high-end French restaurant in San Francisco. (It’s meatlessness isn’t even mentioned.)
  • Food establishments, schools and hospitality groups are all looking at ways to expand their plant-based menus with delicious options. This is true globally. The word’s most prestigious cooking competition, the Bocuse d’Or, will focus on a plant-based dish for chefs from 24 countries in the 2017 grand finale. That means no dairy, no eggs, no meat.

Visit Veggie Happy’s Facebook page for informative and fun posts related to the increasing popularity of plant-based menu options on mainstream menus.

Bon Appetit!

A book plug from Johanna

Johanna here, Founder/Director of Veggie Happy, taking a moment to share something totally off topic: the publication of my mother’s memoir, Six Car Lengths Behind an Elephant: Undercover & Overwhelmed as a CIA Wife and Mother by Lillian McCloy. 

The book is available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon. It is also available from other ebook retailers (iBooks, Nook, etc) and from bookstores. For more information about the book, please visit the Bordertown Publishing website.


Now, back to your regularly scheduled program . . .

Vegan fare at TX Rangers ballpark: guest blog from Twalla

Me and my boyfriend Dave
Me and my boyfriend Dave

This guest post comes from Twalla, volunteer Veggie Happy Manager for the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park. Twalla has been amazing at opening the door to vegan fare at this ballpark. How did she do it? What are her suggestions to others? Read on.

I am a huge Rangers fan. As soon as they played their last game of 2015, I started counting down the days to opening day for the 2016 season. When the Concessions Manager let me know that there was going to be a vegan cart at the ballpark as of April 4th, the date could not get here fast enough. I had never been so excited for a Monday!

Since it seemed like opening day would never get here, I decided to attend the exhibition games for the first time. They were on Friday, April 1st and Saturday, April 2nd. During those two days, we tried the nachos topped with cheese & chili with meat crumbles as well as the burger with hummus. Both are so good, but the nachos are my favorite! On opening day, I opted for the spinach wrap, which I also enjoyed. (Note: Dave is not vegan, but these were his words,“Those nachos are really good!!”)

Vegan Burger
Vegan Burger
Vegan Nachos
Vegan Nachos
Vegan Spinach Wrap (without the vegan chicken)
Vegan Spinach Wrap (without the vegan chicken)

Oh, and this is the shirt I had printed and wore on opening day:

Twalla Tee
“VEGAN FOOD” replaced “BBQ”

The line for the Ballpark Vegan cart was up to 20 people deep at some points during the game. It was a win for both the cart and our Texas Rangers that day. I was particularly glad to find out that on opening week, more vegan burgers were sold than the Wicked Pig (YES!)

Rangers Ballpark Vegan Cart
Ballpark Vegan cart

If you want a vegan cart at your ballpark, you need to contact or e-mail the concessions team. Don’t just do it once, hoping they will listen: keep e-mailing them. Over two years, I e-mailed our Concessions Manager (Casey) and even brought him vegan food items to try. I also created the Facebook page “Veggie Texas Ranger Fans to find more like-minded Ranger fans and help show that there was a real demand to meet the supply of vegan-friendly ballpark foods. To quote Casey, I “politely pestered” him and it paid off!

I have also created a Twitter account @veganrangerfans, so I can easily communicate with the Rangers and their concession company Delaware North, as well as fellow Rangers fans. I encourage anyone to use #ballparkvegan and #veggietexasrangerfans when posting their pictures at Ranger games. This will allow me to find their posts on social media and provide feedback to Casey. My next goal is for them to add another cart on the 1st base line, and also vegan churros. 😉

The Whitley Family (They were excited to be able to finally attend a Rangers game with a great selection of ballpark fanfare for their vegan family.)
The Whitley Family (They were excited to finally be able to attend a Rangers game with a great selection of ballpark menu options for their vegan family.)
Me and my friends (left to right: Rachel, me, Coline)
Me and my friends (left to right: Rachel, me, Coline)

On Saturday, May 14th, we are having a BallPark Vegan Night (check out the promotional flyer below.) We will be seated in Section 320.


Would love for you to join us, but if you can’t, consider hosting an outing at your own ballpark!


More MLB vegan firsts

We’re receiving updated vegetarian/vegan menu listings for MLB parks for the coming season. As they continue to come in, we can already share a couple of vegan firsts:

Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field has added vegan frankfurters to their menu this season. This marks the first time that this ballpark is offering any kind of vegetarian hot dog on the menu. It’s a big deal. (Only three MLB parks remain without a vegetarian hot dog on the menu . . . as of today.)

Also, Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Park will be debuting a vegan cart this year.

Vegan nachos
Vegan nachos at Globe Life Park

“Vegan-themed portable cart offers a variety of popular ballpark fare and other healthy options that do not contain any animal bi-products. The menu consists of: Southwest Black Bean Burger, Vegan Nachos, Vegan Hot Dog, Vegan Jerky, Vegan Chili, Vegan Spinach Wrap, Shake It Up Salad, Fresh Cut Fruit and more! Located in section 16.”

Our Veggie Happy Manager Twalla has been influential at that ballpark and we applaud her! Check out her Veggie Texas Ranger Fans Facebook page .

We’ll keep posting updates to the We’re Veggie Happy Facebook page and will edit the MLB Venue Vegetarian Guide as new menu listings come in. Remember: fan feedback makes a difference! Use the contact information in the listings to relay your thanks or suggestions at the ballparks you frequent.

Things are looking up when a ballpark in Texas is proudly promoting its new vegan cart to the media.

Happy 2016 baseball season, everyone!

The Butcher’s Daughter and Adam & Eve

Imagine a vegetarian or vegan raving about how much they love the food at a cafe called The Butcher’s Daughter. On the flip side, imagine a mainstream diner who has no plant-based preferences and eats everything animal-based, also raving about how much they love the food at a strictly vegetarian/vegan dining establishment. More and more often, they’d be talking about the same place. Vegan fare is going mainstream folks. “The proof of the puddin’ is in the eating!” Well there’s more proof being offered every day.

Heather Tierney is the owner of one such establishment. It’s a cafe in New York called The Butcher’s Daughter. As you might infer from its name, she is not a vegetarian. She describes the food she serves as “hearty and delicious—almost like vegetarian food for non-vegetarians.” Her smashed avocado toasts offer one such example. (Yum!)

Butcher's Daughter toast (1)

Read about Tierney’s recipe for success and the opening of her second cafe in a 3,200 square-foot space in Venice (California, that is, not Italy.)

Now, imagine a vegetarian or vegan raving about the food served at an English pub. Pubs are not generally associated with plant-based eating, right? And again, imagine a mainstream British pub-goer, raving about the food at a pub that only serves vegetarian and vegan fare. The first all-vegetarian pub (which is almost entirely vegan) is in Bristol, England and it’s called Adam & Eve.

Owner Bruce Grey said: “It is early days, we only introduced the menu at the start of January, but so far the reaction has been brilliant.”

adam-and-eve-hotwells-bristol-pub (1)

Read more about vegetarian/vegan pub Adam & Eve in today’s Bristol Post.

Is there a vegetarian/vegan food establishment with big-time mainstream appeal that you consider a favorite and would like to recommend? What are their best dishes? Please share them in our comments section.

Here’s to happy noshing in 2016!

Ah, the irony: menu options lacking at the UN Climate Change Conference

Betwa Sharma, a Huffington Post/Times of India journalist attending the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris posted an article about the dismal lack of viable vegetarian options available to attendees and journalists. “Perhaps hunger sharpens your sense of irony. And it’s not easy to miss this one,” she writes. “This is the venue where nearly 200 countries are huddled in a ‘last chance’ attempt to reduce carbon emissions.”

She clarifies with this fact: “According the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), meat in diets pumps more greenhouse gases–carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide–into the atmosphere than either transportation or industry.”

Silvia Dias, a communications expert from Brazil who is also attending the conference, told Sharma that a much smaller climate change session held in Bonn earlier this year offered more vegetarian options, including lentils and rice, vegetarian Moussaka and Mexican dishes.

“It is really disturbing to see that the U.N. Climate Change Conference is going against the recommendations of FAO, which is a U.N. Agency. You would think that at a climate change conference there should be even more vegetarian options than non-vegetarian,” she added.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provided this 2014 statistic on greenhouse gas emissions world-wide:

GHG emissions AFOLU

The IPCC’s own Mitigation for Climate Change Study summary for policy makers [my italic] offers this:

“Demand-side measures, such as changes in diet and reductions
of losses in the food supply chain, have a significant, but uncertain, potential to reduce GHG emissions from food production.”

And yet, with all the planning that went into this important global event, the idea of offering plentiful and viable plant-based menu options didn’t enter the equation. Think of the opportunity that was missed here, not only by catering to a global community, many of whose cultural dietary preferences already lean toward plant-based foods, but also by introducing viable vegetarian options to those who haven’t tried them before. With India and China among principal emission generators, why not emphasize their own plant-based cuisines as examples? Options could’ve included Indian dishes like chana masala (with garbanzo beans) or dal tadka (with lentils), Asian-style tofu dishes and stir fries, as well as falafel sandwiches, veggie burgers, black bean chili . . . the list goes on.

Thomas W. Hertel, a Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University, focuses his research on the economy-wide impacts of global trade and environmental policies. On a recent segment of the PBS Newshour, he said this:

“If you look globally and you just compare every sector, I’m talking electric utilities, steel, automobiles, beef, globally, beef is at the top, OK, the highest emissions per dollar of output, higher than electric utilities globally.”

It’s clear that the impact of animal agriculture merits serious attention if the world is to take action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Many environmentalists already understand this and have steered their diet in a plant-based direction. The UN Conference on Climate Change could’ve easily set an important example (and shown integrity in its messaging) by offering a plentiful variety of plant-based menu options for its attendees.


PETA’s Top Ten Veg-Friendly MLB parks

You’ll likely get wind of PETA’s Top Ten Veg-Friendly MLB Ballparks for 2015. The list generates a lot of news media (and social media) attention every year. 

We want to provide an important caveat to that list: PETA considers all the suites-only (and club) menu items equally with general concessions when it creates its list. In fact, suites-only items are often what are referenced in their media release (such as the vegan nachos at Dodger Stadium.) It’s great that these options have made it into the suites menu, no doubt, but it’s important to note that this doesn’t reflect general concessions. Veggie Happy wouldn’t rate a ballpark’s veg-friendliness based equally on what’s only available for high-paying suites ticket purchasers. Our focus is primarily on general concessions and what’s available to the average fan. 

For general concessions menu listings, check our MLB Venue Veg Guide.(We were told the Venue Guide link would be added to the PETA release online, so hopefully that has happened by the time you read this.) It provides all the individual ballpark menus (we have a listing for the NFL as well) and contact information so fans can share their menu comments or suggestions directly with each ballpark. We also have volunteer Veggie Happy Managers listed for some of those ballparks. Contact them if you’d like to galvanize local support or join group outings, etc.

It’s great that PETA gets so much media attention around it’s Top Ten Veg-Friendly venue releases and we know from our own interactions that large venues strive to get on the list every year. P.R. incentive is good incentive too. But fans make the most difference by chiming in directly with the ballparks. (See our previous post “Progress, progress, progress” about some of the set-up-to-fail issues surrounding signage, concession worker awareness and stand locations at some ballparks.)

PETA’s Top Ten list has been posted to Veggie Happy’s Facebook page with a couple of comments as a caveat. If you’d like to share PETA’s list on social media, please consider sharing it via our Facebook post, so those comments are included. 

Progress, progress, progress

We’ve come a long way when the L.A. Times writes that Dodger Stadium has “upped its food and drink game” by offering vegan cheese on its nachos, among other things. It wasn’t too long ago when the only vegetarian options at a ballpark were literally peanuts. As of today, most MLB stadiums (all, minus four) have vegetarian hot dogs on their menu, and many are now going with popular vegan franks. (Yankee Stadium added them to their menu this season.) Ballparks are also offering veggie burgers and options such as vegan “chicken” or “cheese steak.” Pretty cool.

That’s not to say there isn’t more progress to be made. Some ballparks limit their wonderful vegan options to suites and catering, which let’s face it, probably isn’t as big an issue anyway. It’s general concessions that matters most to us. Folks paying for suites are going to get what they want a lot faster than the many thousands of regular fans paying general admission prices. Like anything in a capitalistic society, money tends to grab business attention first, and if there isn’t much in the way of money, then it’s the amount of people asking that makes the difference. We all count; that is, if we make sure we’re counted. That’s why sharing your menu feedback directly with the ballparks (or on a general level, doing so with any place that calls you a customer) is important. Veggie Happy advocates for fans, but fans need to chime in directly too.

Here’s where progress still needs to be made. When vegan options are on the regular concessions menu, they tend to be limited to one or two stands, sometimes with very little in the way of clear signage or other indications to fans that they’re available at all, or where to find them. Those vegan franks are popular with regular consumers, not just vegetarians or vegans, which is why we advocate for them, but how will most fans know they’re available?  They may not fare as well as they could or should, given true fan interest, and concession managers might take their sales numbers to mean they aren’t popular. That’s not true, the items are just not evident.

Here’s an example of that. It’s an excerpt of an email we received from a Red Sox fan about Fenway Park:

“There is only one vendor in the park selling vegetarian dogs. Its down a dead end alley, on the side of another catering area. In fact, the people in the regular lines for food blocked my sight line to even see the sign.”

The Nationals’ ballpark is a lovely exception. They notified us that veggie dogs are available at 11 total stands there this season.

We continue to contact the ballparks and update our Venue Vegetarian Guide’s MLB listings as they send confirmations of their 2015 menus. Keep checking the Guide for updates and be sure to use the contact information provided there to contact the ballparks directly with any comments or suggestions of your own. They tally fan comments and requests and yours could be the one to make the difference.

Also, for those of you who might like to promote your products, organization, events or causes through Veggie Happy, note that we now also offer select advertising on the website, which averages 6,000 hits a month. This is offered in addition to Affiliation. Contact if you’d like more information about Affiliation or website advertising opportunities.

Play ball!

At last, the YANKEES!

It’s been a long haul, but at long last, we’re very happy to share that New York’s Yankee Stadium will begin offering vegan frankfurters and burgers effective THIS coming Friday, April 24th!

Keep an eye on the MLB Venue Vegetarian Guide for updated concessions listings and contact information for all MLB stadiums. We’ll update the Yankees listing with the vegan frank and burger stand locations as soon as they’re confirmed.

Please use the Venue Vegetarian Guide as a resource for contacting venues with your own fan feedback. We never tire of beating the drum of advocacy and empowerment. The more fans that chime in directly, supporting and celebrating vegan options, the stronger those menu options become and the greater likelihood they’ll remain on the menu.

Play ball!


IKEA rolls out new veggie (vegan) “meatballs”

IKEA_veggie_balls_2IKEA will roll out its new veggie balls or “Gronsaksbullar” throughout its 40 U.S. cafeterias (except in Carson, CA)  starting tomorrow, April 9. Gronsaksbullar are also vegan, as is the sauce being offered with them. The price is $4.49 for 10 balls and a side of veggies. The total caloric plate is 350 calories and the 10 balls alone are 240 calories. They are gluten, soy, dairy and GMO-free and are made from a blend of green peas, carrot, chickpeas, bell peppers, corn, kale, pea starch, seasonings, onion and canola oil.

Starting on June 30, Gronsaksbullar will also be available for purchase from the Swedish Food Court (as retail packages.)

IKEA has done a great job of celebrating this new item as “the first step to include a wider variety of nutritious and more sustainable food choices.”  One of its goals in offering this item is to cut carbon emissions by offering plant-based food selections.

“We will continue to serve delicious food, offering a taste of Sweden at affordable prices, but with increasing focus on the aspects of food that are really important to people: health and sustainability,” said Michael La Cour, Managing Director of IKEA Food Services AB. “We have high ambitions, and our journey in this direction has just begun. I am proud that we now take the first step and start serving veggie balls.”

Considering that IKEA sells more than one billion meatballs per year, this is a great first step.