High street food outlets are cashing in on the vegan pound by introducing a whole load of tasty treats – but are they any good?
To find out, the Evening Express hit a variety of city eateries and snapped up meat-free meals from six major brands.
The animal-friendly rush was sparked when Greggs launched a vegan sausage roll – to the delight of its customers and its investors. The firm’s profits in the first half of 2019 surged by 58% – an extra £25.7 million compared with the same period in 2018.
A year on, Greggs has doubled its vegan options by introducing a version of the iconic steak bake to mark Veganuary, which encourages people to try meat-free offerings.
But what have its rivals served up?
Reporters Jamie Hall – a meat eater – and Dale Haslam – a vegan – dish out the verdict on vegan offerings from Pizza Hut, Subway, KFC, McDonald’s and Costa, pitting them against Greggs’ vegan steak bake.
First to be scrutinised was Pizza Hut’s Jack ’N’ Ch**se pizza (£12.49 for a regular deep pan).
“It’s very tasty,” said Dale. “The usual problem with vegan pizza is the cheese but Pizza Hut have got it spot on.”
Jamie said: “I actually really like it. It doesn’t feel like a meat-free option – the jackfruit makes up for it.
“I think there are a lot of misconceptions, that going for a vegan option means a lack of quality, but this proves that isn’t the case.”
The Verdict: a meaty-feeling, flavourful pizza with good quality cheese
Next up was Subway’s new meatless meatball marinara (£3.69).
Jamie said: “This is a top effort. A meatball marinara is my go-to at Subway and I can’t tell the difference. I’d happily buy it again… and again and again.”
Dale said: “Wow. I absolutely love it. I would definitely go out of my way to buy it.”
He added: “The meatballs themselves taste great and the sauce and veggies are a perfect addition – this is a game-changer.”
The Verdict: a delicious offering so close to the original that even a meat-eater would struggle to tell the difference
KFC is known for its chicken so how would its new original recipe vegan burger (£3.99) go down?
Dale said: “It’s a great idea but the taste is lacking a bit. It’s very dry. They need to tweak it a bit.”
Jamie said: “It is a bit dry – it definitely needs some more mayo. But it’s a good effort and I wouldn’t have any problem eating it again.”
The Verdict: a good idea in theory, and a solid offering, the texture leaves room for improvement
So what about KFC’s major rival, McDonald’s? It has introduced vegan nuggets containing potatoes, chickpeas, onion, carrots, and corn (£3.29).
Jamie said: “They are pretty much the veggie burger without the bun or salad – and they definitely work better as part of the burger.
“But I think with a bit of refinement – and some vegan sauce to go along with them – they could be a good option.”
Dale said: “These are drier than the Sahara and it’s not always clear which dips are vegan. A good effort, though – they would work as a quick snack.”
The Verdict: these dippers work as a quick snack but need sauce to balance the overwhelming dryness
Meanwhile, Costa Coffee has introduced a vegan Quorn smoky ham and CheeZe toastie (£2.95).
“A poor effort. I could have made this at home in a couple of minutes. Starbucks does a breakfast burrito that is superb and, in comparison, this is bland,” said Dale.
Jamie added: “It’s just very bland. It’s not particularly bad but it’s not great, by any means. Anyone could make this at home.
“It feels like they are just doing the bare minimum.”
The Verdict: bland and boring, this toastie is average and easy to make yourself at home
Finally up for tasting was Greggs’ vegan steak bake (£1.55). “Gorgeous – but a bit too salty,” said Dale. He added: “Very much worth the money, though – quite tasty.”
Jamie said: “A steak bake is my go-to and this is a good effort. It’s really tasty.
“It was going to be really difficult for Greggs to follow up on the success of the sausage roll but I think they’ve managed it.”