10.03.2021 – Food & Drinks

The best city for vegans

A vegan deli, vegan burgers, a bakery selling egg- and dairy-free products – it seems that veganism is gaining ground in Zurich. Surveys show that Zurich is one of the best cities for vegans – and not only since the Veganuary campaign. But is it just a passing trend? The forecasters don’t think so. It seems that vegan products are here to stay.

At the start of the year the advert was everywhere on billboards and trams: ‘Try vegan this January’. The campaign wasn’t confined to Zurich, or even Switzerland. The Veganuary challenge ran in 192 countries. The annual campaign asks people to go vegan for the first month of the year and – ideally – to continue after the month is over. According to the campaign’s UK-based organisers, this was indeed the case with more than two-thirds of participants in 2019.

Of course, veganism isn’t new to Zurich. A dozen vegan restaurants have opened up in the last few years, from food trucks to top restaurants, burger shops to bakeries. The number of vegan food festivals in the city has also been growing from one year to the next. Then the Veganuary posters appeared in January, accompanied by similar campaigns run by the major supermarkets.

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‘It’s a social movement’

Laura Lombardini

Even the initiators of the campaign were taken aback at the success of Switzerland’s Veganuary 2021: ‘We were surprised that Veganuary had such an impact,’ says Laura Lombardini, director of the Swiss Vegan Society, which organised the national campaign. ‘A year ago, when we ran the campaign for the first time, some of the retailers we work with were still unsure about getting involved. But this January, they excitedly told us how great it was.’ Until a few years ago, Laura was often asked whether veganism was just a trend. ‘But today we hear that much less often. It’s not a trend, it’s a social movement,’ says Laura.

Zurich is the vegan capital of Switzerland.

The shift away from animal products is confirmed in the first Plant Based Food Report, recently published by the Coop Group. It highlights the consumer behaviour of people who, at times, consciously abstain from eating animal products – known as flexitarians. The numbers of this group alone have grown by 15 per cent. Zurich plays a key role in this respect, as the city tops the rankings in terms of consumption of meat substitutes and dairy and yogurt alternatives. Zurich comes top in every segment apart from cheese alternatives – where it was beaten into second place by Lucerne.

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Replacing animal products with plant-based foods – an unstoppable trend? Just one year ago, Switzerland’s meat industry association Proviande stated: ‘Social issues such as the growth in animal welfare activism and the climate change debate [...] are fuelling the trend towards a diet with less meat or no meat at all. Nowadays it is easy to eat a meat-free yet varied diet.’ However, one year later the association reported that meat consumption in Switzerland remained unchanged. Is veganism stagnating? Is it returning to its former niche?

There are still very few committed vegans.

Christine Schäfer, a trend forecaster at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute, believes the vegan movement is here to stay: ‘Veganism is taking great strides towards becoming mainstream.’ As a specialist in food trends, she has been observing this shift for many years. ‘There are more and more plant-based substitutes in shops, and restaurants are increasingly offering vegan alternatives.’ Investment provides another way of assessing the trend: ‘Investors’ money is increasingly flowing into plant-based substitutes. That sends a strong signal. The food giants also sense that change is in the air and are investing accordingly.’ Christine Schäfer also mentions another trend that suggests vegan food is becoming mainstream: vegan fast food. ‘Most major chains have started including plant-based alternatives in their product range. Here too, they are increasingly trying to appeal to flexitarians.’ And committed vegans? Surveys show they are still a niche group, says the trend forecaster, ‘but attitudes are changing’.

These vegan pop-ups are currently operating in Zurich:

Vee Cheese, LangstrassenKultur, Langstrasse 113a, until 11.3., Website
Bakery Bakery, Löwenhalle, main station, until 29.4., Website
Momobil (Momos), Löwenhalle, main station, until 29.4., Website
An Chay, Sihlfeldstr. 49, until 26.3., Website