Whether you’re vegan, veggie or simply passionate about all things ‘foodie’, get ready for some heart-warming, life-affirming news!
Once upon a time being a German vegan felt more arduous and challenging than trying to rescue a princess from her enchanted tower. However, during the last decade, Germany has steadily turned into a magical fairy-tale wonderland for vegans. A powerful drive in the last couple of years has propelled this sausage-and-meat guzzling country to the forefront of cruelty-free trendsetting.
Last November, while visiting my family, I researched an article on Veganism in Germany – the results were truly delightful and shocking in equal measure.
Being vegan in Germany is considered really cool right now! With each visit to my home region of Bavaria I am greeted with more vegan food choices, new vegan products, more vegan cookbooks on the shelves and endless exciting news about recent developments. This is delightful. Yet, at the same time, I am shocked that the public perception and acceptance of veganism here in the UK seem to lag behind by such a long way in comparison. I just can’t wait to see the UK embracing vegan lifestyle choices just as positively and whole-heartedly. After all, so much energy and effort is being invested everyday by local groups, national campaigning organisations, vegan show organisers and cruelty-free companies. So let me tell you a bit about the latest headlines from Vegan HQ in Germany. I hope, like me, you will then feel full of inspiration, renewed energy and enthusiasm to be part of the movement for a happier, healthier and kinder planet…
Between eight and nine percent of Germany’s vast population is vegetarian – and included in that figure are 800000 vegans. That’s a huge number of consumers creating a daily demand for cruelty-free food options in supermarkets, shops and restaurants. And these people have created an amazing momentum that is proving hard to stop. In 2013 it wasn’t Jamie Oliver’s latest (and believe me, the Germans love him too!), but Vegan For Fit by vegan guru Attila Hildmann that grabbed the number one spot in the German cookbook bestseller charts. Its sales were way ahead of all the most famous German celebrity chefs.
The local health food shop Ährensache, in my hometown Bad Aibling, has traded for twenty years and has always been a favourite place for me. But this year I was greeted with a huge choice and variety of new products that really bowled me over. I chatted with Gerlinde Deininger, the owner of the shop, and she confirmed exactly what I was thinking: in Germany, veganism is the next big thing… well actually it is the present big thing! To see this happening in front of my eyes is both exhilarating and incredibly inspirational. Young people, particularly, are beginning to make healthy and ethical eating choices for the sake of their own bodies, for animal welfare and the long-term wellbeing of our planet.
Germans love good food and (maybe it’s a cultural thing!) they will not put up with tasteless or bland food options in their shops. Their wallets speak loudly and clearly… and the amazing choice and variety of produce on the shelves are a true testament to this. German health food shops today stock a vast range of delicious vegan sandwich spreads and pates made from high-quality, often organic, ingredients. One of my particular favourites is a horseradish spread or dip with a sunflower seed base. It’s creamy, nutritious and utterly delectable. These spreads and dips always threaten to tip my suitcase over the airline weight limit on my return flight to the UK! Since becoming vegetarian and then vegan in 1999, the wide range of meat-free alternatives in the chiller cabinet in Ährensache has always been an interesting focal point for me. Anything from vegan sausages to doner kebab, grain burgers and marinated tofu is on sale. And in the last few months there’s been a real boom in the vegan cheese market as well. As a food writer and photographer, these new products get me really excited and impatient to drag my ‘loot’ back home and start experimenting in the kitchen.
Browsing the stacked aisles, I came across the organic fresh produce section. The owners have spent many years building up strong and fair relationships with the local farming community. And so their fruit and vegetable display is brimming with wonderful, seasonal produce ‘Aus der Region’ (from the local region). Apples and pumpkins from the Bodensee (Lake Constance) area, local organic potatoes and onions etc. Mrs Deininger also told me about a very conscious move towards more sustainable, regional crop planting which is offering a real alternative to her customers. The farming area around the Bodensee turns out to be a wonderfully fertile ground for producing soya beans. So now, instead of relying on imported soya, Hofgut Storzeln is using these locally produced soya beans to make dairy-free milks.
After feeling all the energy and passion fuelling this amazing change that is giving veganism such a great name in Germany, I felt a bit deflated at first on my return to the UK. It didn’t last long, though!
When I think of all the fabulous vegan fairs and festivals up and down the country, Veganuary!, new vegan magazine publications, vegan supermarket appearing etc., I feel really encouraged and re-energised. Knowing the power we exercise every day with our wallets and shopping trolleys, gives me a real sense of hope for a happier, kinder world for us all. So watch out Germany, we are ready to change the world for the better, with you!
This article was published in Fresh Vegan Magazine, Spring 2014
Have you ever found delicious meat-free meals in unlikely and unexpected places? It would be great to read about your special finds! And if you’ve ever travelled to Germany, I would just love to hear all about your experiences.