Food intolerance is driving more people to a dairy-free diet, according to specialist vegan product suppliers

Martina Navratilova, Bryan Adams, Martin Shaw, Moby - an intriguing guest list for any dinner party, but you’d have to be careful about the menu.
This foursome are among a growing number of celebs and not-so-celebs who have gone full-on vegan and excluded all animal products from their diets.
According to The Redwood Co, one of the biggest specialist suppliers to this niche, there are between 400,000 and 600,000 vegans in the UK, and the number continues to increase. “Compassion and health are the main drivers,” says director Keith Stott.
Redwood is selling hard on its ethical stance and its three ‘strong principles’ relating to health, compassion and the environment. Its products are all-natural and free of cholesterol and hydrogenated fats, and its factory in Corby, Northants, is an ‘animal-free’ site.
While Redwood offers meat-style vegetarian rashers, roasts and Cheatin’ meats in various flavours, it also produces fish-style products. At the end of March it launched a new range that included Vegi-deli Thai ‘fish’ cakes, and it already produces ‘tuna’ and golden breaded ‘scampi’.
Its cheese alternative, Super Melting Cheezly, was named ‘best new product’
by the Vegan Society last year, and Stott says: “Food intolerance is causing more people to look at a dairy-free lifestyle.”
MH Foods also has a cheesy approach with Parmazano, a dairy-free vegetarian Parmesan-style seasoning suitable for vegans. The cheese, which it calls “the veggie answer to Parmesan”, gives vegans the opportunity to create authentic-tasting products.
At Simply Organic, which makes Pure & Pronto vegan ready meals, director Belinda Mitchell says: “Based on customer feedback, veganism appears to be growing not as a movement or philosophy so much as a reflection of healthy eating trends: cutting out dairy products and reducing meat consumption, combined with the growing awareness of the health-giving properties of pulses, etc.”
Redwood’s Stott says the health food sector and retailers such as Planet Organic and Fresh & Wild cater particularly well for the vegan market. However, despite the hardline reputation of vegans, who shun leather and wool clothing as well as milk and eggs, there is no pressure on mainstream retailers or suppliers to create a distinct category.
“Many vegetarian products are suitable for vegans by default,” says Vegetarian Society spokeswoman Kerry Bennett. However, companies are not overlooking mainstay vegan products, such as tofu. Cauldron Foods, for example, gets a lot of mileage in soya bean curd, which it produces in five varieties.