Back in November 2012, Cadry Nelson, creator of vegan food blog Cadry’s Kitchen, provided us at PMQ Pizza Magazine with a great recipe for our Pizza of the Month: Taco Pizza. She has been sharing plant-based recipes at her site since 2009, and we’re excited to have her back and hear her thoughts about the present and future of vegan eating.
Her own transition into veganism was a lifetime in the making. “I’ve always considered myself an animal lover; I grew up with a very special dog, with whom I shared a special bond,” Nelson recalls. “I had thought many times about going vegetarian, but it always seemed insurmountable. But after watching videos about the ways farmed animals are treated, I realized that it was something I didn’t feel comfortable supporting. I went vegetarian, and then a year later transitioned to being fully vegan.”
Nelson’s blog started as a place to share favorite plant-based recipes, as well as information on how others could navigate the transition to a vegan lifestyle—and, over time, it has morphed into her own small business. “Cadry’s Kitchen focuses on plant-based comfort foods that are ready in about 30 minutes,” Nelson explains. “I also do freelance writing, photography and recipe development for other publications.”
Q: What do you think are some common misconceptions about vegan consumers and/or vegan diets?
A: A common misconception about vegan consumers is that they always want uber-healthy options. But I don’t go to a pizza place for a kale salad! I want the same kinds of offerings that meat eaters do, but in plant-based form. Make a veganized taco pizza, cheeseburger pizza or chili dog pizza, and I’m on my way. Vegans want to feel like their business is wanted, not just an afterthought. Anyone can make a bell pepper and mushroom cheeseless pizza. But a business that is really going after creative, thoughtful vegan options will win my business every time. Plus, there are so many vegan meat and cheese options on the market nowadays, there’s really no reason not to offer a plant-based version of your most popular items.
Q: How can pizzerias and restaurants do a better job of communicating their vegan offerings to customers and reach the vegan community?
A: First and foremost, I’d ask that restaurants clearly mark vegan items on the menu. Don’t expect customers to be Sherlock Holmes, figuring out what can and can’t be made vegan. Either have a separate vegan menu, or have a notation next to which items can be made vegan. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to hear through the grapevine that businesses can accommodate vegans. Put it out there, front and center!
To reach more vegans, see what hashtags are popular in your area—like #vegansofiowa. Then use those hashtags when promoting your options on social media. Reach out to food bloggers in your area to let them know what’s available. Word spreads fast in the vegan community, especially in small towns, where options aren’t as prevalent.
If you’re looking to attract vegan customers, make sure you do your due diligence to ensure that the products you’re offering don’t contain animal products, including honey. Discuss with your staff how to minimize cross-contamination. It’s also a nice touch to include something in the final dish that can make a customer feel confident that they got a vegan order—like a flag stuck into the pie or a note on the box.
Q: Why do you see vegan eating as not just a trend but a full evolution of our eating habits going forward (even among meat eaters who are incorporating more plant-based foods)?
A: When I went vegetarian in 2005, I’d met someone who was vegan only once. In my mind, she was what a vegan looked like. But nowadays, there’s more exposure than ever to vegans and vegan specialty products than ever before, thanks to the internet, TikTok, Instagram and social media in general. Plant-based foods are becoming commonplace at fast-food restaurants.
That means that “vegan food” and “veganism” are becoming more and more destigmatized. It’s not just something happening in Los Angeles. People who might never have sought out a vegan restaurant are trying plant-based foods and liking them. It’s becoming another option—regardless of whether or not they go fully vegan.
Also, as people learn more about the harmfulness of animal agriculture to human and nonhuman animals, as well as the environmental aspects of the animal industry, the more people are looking for compassionate alternatives.
Q: What strides have you witnessed in vegan food options over the years, and what do you want to see or predict for the future of this space?
A: I really never could have conceived how widespread vegan options would become in the 13 years since I went vegan. I remember hearing about a pizza place in Southern California getting Daiya shreds back in 2009. I went there with friends as fast as I could, to try it out. It was such a novelty. Now, dairy-free cheeses at pizzerias are fairly common, even in small towns.
Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger have exploded in restaurants. Baskin-Robbins and Dairy Queen have vegan ice cream available. Vegans no longer have to default to a salad and french fries when they’re dining out in the middle of nowhere.
The vegan space has continued to grow in new and exciting ways, and people are clamoring for these options like never before. When KFC launched a vegan chicken option in Georgia, there were lines around the restaurant for hours. I see the innovation only growing!
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