vegan food is on trend in canteens – enjoy your meal!
Plant-based food is making real headway in company and university canteens
A loud rumbling in the stomach is a universal sign that it’s time to give your body, and therefore also your brain, the food it needs. And as someone who studies or works, particularly with a modest budget, what better place could there be to eat to your heart’s content than in a university or work canteen? But before you jump to conclusions – we’re not talking about boring canteen food in dusty halls with harsh fluorescent lights! We’re talking about the amazing steps forward taken by vegetarian and vegan food over the last few years. It’s been a real triumph of a journey, which has opened up new culinary horizons both for companies and for universities.
Meatless lunch breaks past and present
Let’s go on an appetizing journey through time to take a look at the trends of the past. Just a few years ago, the vegetarian (let alone vegan!) options in most university and work canteens were akin to a single, shy blade of grass in a whole meadow full of steak and other meat dishes. Meatless dishes were often no more than a side note on menus, and the variety of flavor they offered left a lot to be desired. Vegetarians and vegans had to put up with unimaginative salads and dry tofu, while their meat-eating colleagues tucked into burgers and fried chicken wings.
But then the world woke up and recognized people’s hunger for a variety of plant-based foods! Young people in particular wanted change in the world of food. As awareness of environmental, health and animal welfare issues increased, university and work canteens also started to revolutionize their menus. Nowadays, vegetarian and vegan menus are usually no longer just a supporting act, but the attractive main event on the menu.
Brainy people put a lot of thought into what they eat, too!
University canteens have become true pioneers of this radical culinary turning point. Three in four university canteens in Germany offer at least one vegan dish every day.
The student population – a generation of changemakers and trendsetters – demanded better vegetarian and vegan options. They marched through the corridors holding banners, protested with empty plates in hand, and sent emails with passionate demands to those in power. And their voices were heard! The canteens started to embrace plant-based cuisine, and were transformed from boring eateries to veritable oases of good food. In a globalized world where institutions compete to win the brightest and best for themselves, this topic is also a factor and an indicator of who is really gearing up for the future and is prepared to go down new routes.
Some universities go even further: at Cambridge University in the UK, students took part in a questionnaire where they said that in fu-ture, they want nothing but vegan food in their canteens. It remains to be seen how the university will put this into practice.
With a bit of humor here (plant-based allusions to meat-based classics), a drizzle of creativity there, and there you have it: a completely new menu. Over the past few years, they have surprised us with dishes which would win over even the staunchest of carnivores. From spicy jackfruit curry to flavorful tofu or seitan burgers – the creations of canteen cooks have taken our tastebuds on a rollercoaster ride of culinary pleasure!
A plant-powered workforce
But let’s not forget that businesses are also playing their part the plant-based revolution. Over the past few years, company canteens have seen more and more cooks start to cater for different health needs and culinary preferences of the staff who eat there. After all, a satisfied stomach means a productive staff member. And in times when skilled workers are highly sought after and there is competition to be an attractive employer, these measures are a real plus when it comes to getting forward-thinking employees on board. Plant-powered employer branding!
Numerous companies have already recognized the value of offering diverse, healthy food to their teams, and now offer vegan and vegetarian options as permanent features on their menus. Whether in the form of delicious vegetable stir fries, a colorful range of salads or lovingly prepared vegan – little by little, canteens are becoming a real treasure trove of plant-based pleasures for the palate. Not only does this culinary diversity offer staff a healthier choice – it also promotes wellbeing in the workplace and makes staff feel appreciated.
9 popular plant-focused dishes from work and university canteens
As our customers include many industrial kitchens, university and work canteens, we decided to carry out a small-scale poll (which we can in no way claim to be representative 😉). Here are the most popular veggie dishes:
Vegan Curry – a taste of India for every day: A hearty curry with fresh vegetables, enhanced with exotic spices like turmeric, cumin, chili and ginger, served with aromatic basmati rice or crispy naan… like a mini break for your senses!
Vegetarian or vegan Lasagne – a piece of Bella Italia on your dining table: Layers of pasta, aromatic tomato sauce, fresh vegetables such as spinach and zucchini, as well as plenty of cheese or – for the vegan version – alternative to cheese of course. A wonderfully hearty choice which will be a hit with meat lovers too. Even canteens can provide cooking as good as an Italian Mamma’s!
Veggie burgers – BBQ feeling before you’ve even left work: veggie burgers are often made from ingredients like beans, chickpeas or quinoa, and can be served on a crispy roll with a selection of toppings such as salad, tomatoes, onions or a classic burger sauce. And there you have it: a real burger experience with a bit of plant-based bite!
Fried tofu with vegetables – an ever-popular duo: Crispy fried tofu, combined with numerous veg varieties such as peppers, broccoli, pak choi and carrots. Pepped up with soy sauce and spices, and often served with rice or noodles, this classic never gets boring.
Vegan bowls – colorful bowls full of healthy ingredients … such as quinoa, avocado, roasted vegetables, edamame beans, and a delicious sauce – how about sweet and sour? A perfect choice for anyone who likes to make sure their meals are perfectly balanced. Freshness and quality are what counts here!
Cannelloni with ricotta and spinach – buonissimo! Tender cannelloni pasta tubes filled with a mixture of spinach and creamy alternative to ricotta cheese, drenched in a well-seasoned tomato sauce, and topped with vegan cheese alternatice before baking.
Vegan Buddha bowls: A bowl full of plant-based goodness, combining protein sources such as fried tempeh or roasted chickpeas, seasonal vegetables, brown rice or quinoa, and a sophisticated sauce. Simply a popular, balanced and filling option!
Veggie patties – just like homemade: (Almost) homemade patties, made from a mixture of different veg, herbs and spices. Perfect as a main dish or served in a burger bun. Canteen food like this will make you look forward to going to work!
Vegan Chili sin Carne – a real meatless powerhouse: A delicious, Mexican-inspired dish made from beans, tomatoes, veg and spices, which come together to make a hearty, warming stew. Perfect for chilly days!
These dishes are, of course, just a snapshot of the diversity of dishes which are now on offer in work and university canteens in Germany. They are already part of the standard range on offer, and new highlights are being added every day.
The plant-based trend continues to boom
But what does the future hold for plant-based food in university and work canteens? Well, things are looking optimistic. The demand for vegetarian and vegan dishes is at an all-time high. And university and work canteens are more than happy to keep pushing this trend forwards. The range of plant-based dishes will continue to grow, and will develop thanks to new flavor combinations and sophisticated preparation methods.
In addition to dishes with vegetables and pulses which already enjoy popularity, innovative alternatives to animal products will take center stage on the menu. Even now, it’s clear to see that plant-based meat substitute products will become the norm, and will win over even the staunchest of meat lovers, who won’t be able to believe their own tastebuds. Cheese alternatives made from nuts, soy, and other innovative basic ingredients will be so delicious and varied that they’ll delight even the most demanding of cheese aficionados.
But it’s not just about taste. Sustainability will continue to play an increasingly important role. University and work canteens are putting more focus on local, seasonal ingredients, in order to reduce their ecological footprint. Promoting sustainable, ethical nutrition will become the standard, and the connection between the food on our plates and the environment will be emphasized more and more.
Vegan living at home and at work
In short, it’s safe to say that vegetarian and vegan food have a very promising future ahead in university and work canteens. University canteens will continue to go with the latest trends in plant-based cuisine, and will let their creativity flow in order to appeal to the students’ palates. Company canteens will establish themselves as places for wellbeing and enjoying food, where staff can find a wide range of delicious, healthy plant-based choices.
In a world which is increasingly recognizing the significance of sustainable food and conscious consumption, canteens will become hubs of culinary evolution. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your knife and fork, and get ready to dive into a plant-based future where the food is not only nutritious – but also full of flavor and joy, and can be eaten in good conscience: whether you’re at home, university, or work.
11 facts on the vegan revolution:
- In 2018, there was a 165% increase in the number of vegan meals served in university can-teens in the UK compared with the previous year. (Source: The Vegan Society, 2019)
- In a poll of British students in 2019, 69% of respondents said that they chose a vegan or vege-tarian meal from their canteen at least once a week. (Source: The Vegan Society, 2019)
- In Germany, sales of vegan convenience products (such as ready meals, snacks) in group cater-ing increased by 36% between 2016 and 2019. (Source: Institut für Handelsforschung (Insti-tute for Commerce Research, Cologne), 2019)
- According to a survey carried out in the Netherlands in 2020, 90% of university canteens in the country offered at least one vegan option. (Source: Studenten voor Morgen, 2020)
- In 2020, the city of Warsaw in Poland introduced a program aimed at reducing sales of ani-mal products in the city’s canteens by 30%. At least 20% of the dishes on offer had to be ve-gan. (Source: Vegconomist, 2019)
- In Sweden, sales of vegan convenience products in group catering increased by 24% between 2017 and 2019. (Source: Livsmedelsverket, 2019)
- According to a survey carried out in France in 2021, 94% of universities in the country offer at least one vegan option in their canteens. (Source: Greenpeace France, 2021)
- In Spain, sales of vegan convenience products from canteens and industrial kitchens in-creased by 39% between 2017 and 2019. (Source: Lantern, 2019)
- In the year 2020, the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHOGA) published “guide-lines for vegan cooking in group catering”. The guidelines are specifically aimed at university canteens and industrial kitchens, and support them with implementing vegan menus. (Source: DEHOGA, 2020)
- According to a survey carried out in Italy in 2020, 79% of Italian university canteens had broadened their ranges to include vegan options. (Source: Vegolosi, 2020)
- In the year 2019, the European Vegetarian Union (EVU) launched the “V label” certification for vegan and vegetarian products. This label helps industrial kitchens to identify vegan products more easily, and to integrate them into their menus. (Source: European Vegetarian Union, 2019)
Doesn’t that sound promising?! Let’s hope that this will mean that whether at uni or at work, every-one who has high standards in terms of sustainability and enjoyment can choose a conscious, vegan lifestyle!