Vegan products in mainstream shops

When I first stopped eating meat, in the early 90s, the range of ‘vegie’ foods in my supermarket was VERY limited. I had to make a special trip to a ‘health food’ shop to get some of the foods we ate. Over the years, the range has increased, but it’s great to see that over the last few months, there has been a HUGE expansion of vegie choices in my regular supermarket. It’s a good sign!

Vegan MoFo 2013 banner image

Memories of 20 years ago

In the early 90s I felt lucky to find just one brand and one type of tofu, and one type of vegie burger, in my supermarket. Oh, I’m probably being unfair, because there were also tinned sausages, TVP and UHT-packed silken tofu. I did try all of those, because I thought they were what vegetarians ate, but we just didn’t like them.

I used to go to specialty ‘health food’ shops to buy tempeh, marinated tofu and fancy burgers, when we could afford them.

As the years went by, the supermarkets started to expand their range. There were a few different vegie burgers and sausages—some that were like fake meat and some that were bean, grain or vegetable based. I noticed man-made bacon and sandwich meats (we didn’t like them either, but it was nice to see them there). Tempeh appeared, along with marinated tofu pieces and occasionally even seitan. I also remember the excitement of finding rennet-free cheeses and free-range eggs in the supermarket (before I understood the lives of dairy cows and laying hens).

Leo’s Fine Food & Wine*

The supermarket where I’ve been shopping for the last 5 years or so, (Leo’s Fine Food & Wine in Heidelberg) is fantastic. Not only do they play fantastic Italian music that makes us cha-cha (or whatever the Italian version of cha-cha is) down the aisles, but similar to most of the IGAs (independent grocers) they also stock products from small producers who aren’t able to supply quantities enormous enough for the ‘big two’ (Coles and Woolworths). This means there lots of interesting products like juices, curry pastes, salsas, sauces and teas that aren’t available from most supermarkets—AND we’re lucky enough to be able to support the small-scale producers.
(*I have nothing to do with Leo’s, apart from being a happy customer, and this is not an ad!)

Change is in the air

A couple of months ago, I noticed something had changed. I’m not sure if it was gradual, or if it had happened suddenly, but I noticed it all at once. The range of vegan foods had expanded dramatically.

Vegan cheeses and lunch meats had taken over a large section of the deli cabinet, along with new patties , ‘bites’ and burgers. The range of tofu expanded—although tempeh had disappeared! Thankfully, it’s now back, as you can see in the picture below. 🙂

Increased range of vegie products in the deli cabinet.

Soy ice creams and the Linda McCartney range of frozen foods were joined by coconut ice cream in the freezer, and coconut yoghurts appeared in the ‘dairy’ cabinet.

Coconut yoghurts

I was picking up our non-dairy milks and realised that condensed soy milk and soy (and rice) cream were on the next shelf! I’d always had to travel to the Radical Grocery Store to get those.

Soy condensed milk and cream
I’m a little worried that the range of vegan cheeses and lunch meats might be a little large for the turnover they would have, as some of them don’t seem to be moving. After all, I’m a vegan customer, but I don’t eat vegan lunch meats and only buy vegan mozzarella about once a month at most. I suppose it will take them a while to adjust their range and quantities to the demand. It’s just great to see them there, and I’m hoping others are supporting them too.

But we still need the specialty shops too

I still love to go to the Radical Grocery Store and some of my local organic/wholefoods shops to get special treats though.

The Radical Grocery Store’s range changes, but it’s the only place I’ve ever seen Spoon’s sausages, Notzarella cheese or vegan marshmallow mix.

Terra Madre (formerly the Fruit Pedaller—I like the old name better, but the new shop has an incredible range) in Westgarth has pretty much everything from vegan chocolate chips and ice cream to seitan, kale and environmentally-friendly cleaning products. The biggest problem is that it’s CROWDED…all the time…but then, that’s also a good sign too!

Organic Gertrude in Fairfield is my favourite for really, really fresh fruit and veg (between my weekly trip to Vic Market organics). It’s not usually crowded, so it’s possible to drop in and grab a few things without having to wait in a long queue. And they have a cafe too.

Then there are my Vic Market favourites: Market Organics (for fruit and veg), Tofu Trek (tofu, tempeh, seitan and vegie sausages), Nut Trek (peanut butter, almond butter, dried fruit…and nuts, of course) and Minh Phat (for those lovely puffy tofus, noodles and fantastic dumplings).

Make vegan foods visible to everyone

I’m sure the specialty shops will be with us for a long time yet, because they can offer the biggest range with the highest turnover—but just seeing the range of vegie products in mainstream supermarkets increase is really exciting. It’s real evidence that change is happening and the demand for animal-free foods is increasing…and that it’s picking up speed!

If we remember to support these mainstream businesses that are stocking vegan foods, the products will remain on the shelves to be seen by more customers, who may eventually try them and decide to make kinder choices.

I’ll explain later…

By the way, I should explain my quick post the other day. The reason we needed comfort food was that that was to be the night my husband found out whether he would be being made redundant at work (they’re dramatically downsizing). Unfortunately, the announcement wasn’t made that day, so we’re still waiting…and still in need of comfort food. :-/

The reason I was hurrying was that I was having my first swimming lesson (in about 34 years) that night. (Yes, it’s true.) I can swim-quite badly-but my breathing technique is so bad that I get exhausted or choke, or both. I’ve decided to sort that out so I can swim laps to keep fit. It’s a bit embarrassing to be learning to swim when 6 year olds are charging up and down the pool in the next lane, but hopefully it’ll be worth it in the end!

So that explains my strange post. It also explains why I was running on so much nervous energy that I was able to make the lasagna, vegetables and dessert very quickly. I was running on adrenaline!

You can groove along too.

I couldn’t find any Italian music quite like the music played at Leo’s supermarket, but this is not too far off. It’s much more entertaining than “Down, down, prices are down…” at that other supermarket! (Sorry Status Quo).

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10 thoughts on “Vegan products in mainstream shops

  1. sounds like a great supermarket – I go to the big two supermarkets too much because they are nearby but I also try and go to other shops – I know what you mean about the thrill of veg products in mainstream. Good luck with swimming and with your husband’s job

    • Thanks Johanna. We really only started going to Leo’s and the Vic Market once our kids were old enough to stay home by themselves – you can’t drag a little kid to a million different shops without someone getting cranky. We used to leave really early and have a weekly breakfast date at the market. (Haha! We didn’t get out much.)

      I live within walking distance of Northcote Plaza and where there are TWO Coles supermarkets – but I try to avoid them these days! Luckily I have family over near Leo’s, so it’s easy to drop in.

  2. Before I started this vegan blog in ending 2011, there weren’t many shops that have this “vegan line” or some cities weren’t vegan-friendly, i.e., Denmark or Turkey. But here in Spain, their health food shops and the supermarkets are filled with vegan products (http://veganmiam.com/europe/vegan-finds-groceries) such as cheeze, vegan meat, etc. And I am on the same page as you, I don’t eat much cheeze or vegan meat, but it’s really nice to see them at the shops. I also saw a small Linda McCartney range of frozen foods in Phuket, Thailand at a fancy supermarket, too!

  3. Oh no wonder you are running on adrenaline! I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s possible redundancy. How anxiety-provoking.
    Good luck with the swimming.
    I, too, am impressed with the range of products that are now available. When I became vegan, there was only one brand of non-dairy milk in supermarkets (So Good).

    • Thanks Ally. Hopefully we’ll hear something today. I’m starting to chew my fingernails off, and I’m not sure that’s vegan! 🙂 The range of non-dairy milks is enormous these days, isn’t it? Both brands and types of milk. A friend of mine tried quinoa milk the other day and said it tasted like dirt, but most of milks I’ve tried have been fantastic. (Haven’t tried quinoa milk though).

  4. Even way out here in outer suburbia there has been a change. Not as much as where you are though and I don’t think our IGA would have anything at all.

    Hope the news is good when it comes. We know how you are feeling.

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