Why Norwich is becoming a vegan hotspot
- Credit: Archant
A celebration of veganism is coming to Norwich next weekend. Reporter Sophie Wyllie reports on how the city is becoming a popular spot for the increasing numbers of vegans - and why many believe the food movement will only get bigger.
Several years ago, veganism was viewed by some as an extreme diet and way of life.
But according to a 2016 study by the Vegan Society and Vegan Life magazine, it was revealed there were 542,000 vegans in Britain, compared to just 150,000 in 2006.
The diet sees people avoid eating animals that have been killed and animal products altogether - including eggs and dairy products.
More choice of vegan options in supermarkets and eateries, more information online about the diet and a shift in greater awareness of environmental issues and animal welfare have all contributed to the rise, according to vegan supporters and Norwich businesses.
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And they claim the city is fast becoming a destination popular with vegans across the country because of its strong food offerings and ethical outlook.
On Saturday, June 2, from 10am to 4pm, the Norwich Vegan Festival will be returning to the city for the third year running.
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It will feature 40 to 50 stalls from vegan businesses, live cookery demonstrations and nutrition advice.
Organiser Shena Fairles, 50, from Lincolnshire, who has been a vegan for 10 years, said: 'Norwich is an amazing place for vegans. Everywhere is upping their game in terms of vegan offerings but Norwich is a good place to live as a vegan.'
The animal sanctuary owner added the festival was open to anyone.
Mrs Fairles said: 'Veganism is becoming much more popular and a lot of places are catering for vegans. People are realising the health benefits.
'People are accepting it more as a lifestyle choice now.
'There is so much more information out there now compared with 10 years ago.'
She added the majority of people become vegan because of concerns over animal cruelty and the overall environment.
Mrs Fairles said: 'There are so many things you can replace meat with now. There are so many myths and misconceptions about veganism. Some people think that all we eat is lettuce.'
She believed veganism was only going to get 'bigger' across Britain.
Chris Avey, proprietor of the River Green Café in Trowse - which is a meat-free restaurant - said: 'We are seeing a lot of young people going straight to veganism and there are a lot more older people who have been vegetarian for a while turning vegan.
'All off a sudden there has been a lot more information and choice for vegans.
'Norwich is spoilt for choice for vegan offerings,' Mr Avey added.
He believed it was good because of its student city status.
Lizzie Frigby, manager of soya dairy and tofu producer Tofurei - which has a café on Pottergate - said: 'There has been a rise in vegan options in Norwich eateries over the last two years.
'It is so easy to nip to the shops now and get a vegan meal. It is more accessible to everyone.
'Norwich gets customers from Bury St Edmunds, Cambridge and Ipswich because there are so many options for vegans. We even get people from London.'
She said the lifestyle choice was the most sustainable option for the future environment.
As well as vegan businesses, more mainstream pubs and restaurants in Norwich are buying Tofurei's soya dairy and tofu products, including sausages and burgers.
Mike Sweetman, joint owner of Timberhill Bakery, which sells vegan cakes, muffins and pastries, said: 'I think veganism definitely isn't a trend. It is a long-term movement. Norwich is at the forefront of alternative food and environmental thinking.'
He added that brought in tourists from around the country and abroad.
Nutritional therapist Catherine Jeans, based at Norwich's Orange Grove Clinic, said she was seeing more teenage girls asking advice on veganism.
She believed that was partly because of more exposure for the lifestyle on social media.
Ms Jeans has also seeing a rise in 'flexitarianism' which means people switch more between a meat-based and vegetarian diet.
She said: 'The vegan diet can be really healthy. A lot of people in the world that live the longest have a plant-based diet. Most of us don't eat enough plant-based food and veg.'
Ms Jeans added it was important for vegans to eat good quality food, rather than processed products, and do research.
?Tickets for the Norwich Vegan Festival cost £2, under fives go free. Search Norwich Vegan Festival on Facebook.