Coined as one of the most rapidly growing areas of the food and drink industry, plant-based (vegan) food sales have been consistently rising and have been projected to reach upwards of $US162 billion by 2030, accounting for increased awareness surrounding the environmental and ethical problems associated with animal agriculture. As such, a recently released report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declares that “diets high in plant protein and low in meat and dairy are associated with lower greenhouse gas emissions”.
While there are many brands worldwide attempting to perfect meat replacements (like Impossible foods which I discussed in another post) and fighting the far-reaching influence of animal agriculture lobby groups on governments and labeling policies, an area still in its infancy and positioned for growth is baked goods and pastries. A Dupont market trend analysis mentioned that ‘tomorrow’s hit products will go far beyond imitating meat and dairy’. With accessibility growing for vegan cakes and cookies in many retailers, there is a small revolution happening in the world of upscale or luxury baking: plant-based pastry shops and bakeries. Culturally, fascination with baking has resulted in countless cookbooks and tv show competitions, from the most grotesque demonstration of the difficulties of baking to gravity-defying artistry, and some well-known names in pastry have embraced vegan baking to demonstrate their capacity for novelty and innovation while offering refined products for this consumer segment.
Analogous to Tiffany’s blue box, Ladurée’s pale green bag and boxes have been synonymous with the refinement and internationalisation of French pastries. The company (or Maison, which demonstrates the brand’s clear link between pastries and luxury fashion) was launched in 1872 by Louis Ernest Ladurée and now operates over 100 stores, restaurants, or stands in more than 20 countries.
In 2019, the brand announced a collaboration with prolific plant-based chef Matthew Kenney in making its Beverly Hills location completely vegan. Kenney stated that this represents an exercise in the reinterpretation of the essence of Laduree through plant-based ingredients. Transforming products traditionally made with egg whites and butter by using almond buttermilk and coconut oil, the brand’s classical macarons as well as croissants and pain-au-chocolat are part of the available offering while some of the products developed can be found in some of Laduree’s locations in Paris, New York, and Luxembourg.
Known for international restaurant locations such as Plant food + wine, and his partnership with Four Seasons hotel under the Folia restaurant brand which can be found in the hotel’s Bahrain, Kuwait, Dubai, and Los Angeles locations, Kenney’s success demonstrates this definite inkling of luxury brands to cater to this demand.
One of the world’s largest and most famous department stores, Harrods was opened in its current London location by Charles Henry Harrod in 1849. Modeled after the ‘Cathedral of Retail’ of the mid-19th century, Harrods is a multi-floor retail behemoth offering a variety of services which include different restaurants and food offerings. Australian-born Phil Khoury was recently profiled by the Sydney Morning Herald highlighting his position as Head Pastry Chef of the institution.
Branded as a plant-based pastry specialist, Khoury discussed that his focus on taste is the key to the bakery’s success, stating that he would “never say it is vegan beforehand because it needs to meet all our expectations and deliver on taste. That it’s vegan or plant-based is just a huge bonus.” Hinting that a cookbook is in the works, his appointment and self-branding highlight the rise in interest in vegan pastry from a commercial perspective.
Baccarat Hotel New York
While not associated with a celebrity chef, the Baccarat Hotel in New York, where one can experience a traditional British High tea, offers a vegan menu, the Queen Isabella II of Spain, for patrons who are so inclined and includes mushroom tartlettes; artichoke toast with arugula and fig; bergamotte choux and chocolate almond cookie amongst others.
A pioneer within the vegan patisserie, VG Patisserie was opened in 2016 on Boulevard Voltaire in Paris by Bérénice Leconte, who authored two books; Pâtisserie Vegan in 2017, and a second tome dedicated to vegan choux pastry. In 2019, the brand launched a YouTube channel where it shares tips and techniques to recreate its products. The shop offers all traditional french pastries and baked goods including Madeleines, Paris-Brest, and Apollos.
While the growth in vegan pastries and baking is apparent, the interest to invest in the development of this segment also takes into consideration allergies to eggs and dairy, which are growing globally. Bon Appetit, Conde Nast’s online cooking magazine, released a complete guide to vegan baking, with detailed information on the use of plant-based ingredients to replicate traditionally non-vegan recipes, another sign of the mainstreaming of this trend.
Sur une note personnelle
Years ago, I was gifted the VG Patisserie cookbook, which is beautifully presented and offers extensive and varied pastry recipes. However, pastry is a delicate process, better left to the experts! By offering these new products and the means to replicate them, I can foresee the segment growing, and for such products to become a part of high-end bakeries globally.
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