Vegan Food in Germany is on the Rise

Germany led the world last year in vegan food launches. This is
a significant step toward more people eating vegan food in
Germany and around the world.

Germany led the world last year in vegan food launches. This is a significant step toward more people eating vegan food in Germany and around the world.

Photo credit: Tony
 via / CC BY

On a cruise that I took with some friends, I walked into the
bustling buffet, eager to taste the evening’s specialty-themed
foods. I took a deep breath, however, when I saw the sign:
“German Night.” Germany isn’t known for its vegetable-forward
options, which a look at the buffet confirmed. I peered into
the steaming, subtly lit trays of sauerbraten, spätzle,
eisbein, bratwurst, currywurst, and knockwurst and hesitated. I
was in the mood for a plant-based meal and knew that this
wasn’t the right fit for me. I made my excuses to my dinner
companions and headed to the buffet room with the staple salad

As a result, when I saw
Mintel’s Global New Products Database
and their findings
that there were more launches of vegan food in Germany last
year than in any other country, I was skeptical. What happened
to all those menus filled with veal, beef, or pork?

It seems that it’s becoming popular in Germany to veganize
traditional meat-heavy dishes . The trend has helped draw in a
growing number of new vegetarians and vegans across Germany and
has been part of the momentum toward more plant-based eating in

If you’re skeptical that German food go vegan, try a

Portobello Mushroom Schnitzel
or a
Cheesy Spätzle Casserole
. Or a
German Potato and Lentil Salad
. What about
Tempeh Reuben
 for lunch? Could you resist
Mushroom & Leek Strudel
? No wonder vegan food in Germany
is taking off!

chart showing launch of new vegan food in Germany vs. other countries

To really see how vegan food in Germany is taking
off, just look at Berlin. An estimated 80,000
Berliners are vegan, which is about 10% of the population,
according to

first vegan supermarket chain
, Veganz, opened in Berlin in
2011 and now has ten stores across Germany and a product
selection of over 4,500 items. Schivelbeiner Strasse in the
Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood in northeast Berlin, popular with
entry-level workers and young parents, has become known as

Vegan restaurants are springing up across Europe and so,
too, are vegan street festivals. What could be more yummy on a
pleasant June day than vegan kebabs, pizza, or ice cream? Vegan
versions of familiar staple foods give people feelings of
comfort and reassurance as they move into healthier, more
sustainable, and totally different ways of thinking about food.

Food Technologists and Vegan Food in Germany

“These new food products are quite tasty,” Stefan Lorkowski,
vice president of the German Nutrition Society, affirms. “It’s
tremendous what food technologists can do.”

Food technologists? Sounds like a kind of sterile eating,
doesn’t it?

Food technologists are involved in lots more food research and
production processes, however, than many of us know. They
develop new foods through precise selection and
ingredient-sourcing, creating test samples, and conducting

vegan food on the grill

Photo credit: markhillary
via /

With a keen knowledge of food science research and an ability
to analyze and interpret research results, food technologists
are responsible for reimagining food in a way that not only
maintains taste and nutritional value but also invites
skeptical eaters to join in.

“Meat substitutes are what Germany is leading in,” says
nutritional epidemiologist Clarissa Lage Barbosa of the

Robert Koch Institute
, part of the Federal Ministry of
Health. “If someone is just starting, these kind of products
can help them get into the diet.”

Thomas Sanders, emeritus professor of nutrition and dietetics
at King’s College London, believes there will be even more meat
substitutes introduced to the marketplace in the near future.
“I see a growth in ready meals that are vegan.”

Vegan Food Products as the First Step to a Plant-Based Diet

Even though Germany is making great strides with food
technology, Sanders disputes the enduring role of meat
substitutes as integral to long-term vegan eating. “Most vegans
do not think of meat as food … (so) they don’t want things
resembling meat,” he said. From this perspective, meat
substitutes are more of an introduction to rather than an
enduring element of a plant-based diet.

The push toward harmony across necessary nutrients and food
groups in Germany parallels vegan ideals in other parts of the
world, such as the U.K. and U.S., where these diets revolve
more around raw, unprocessed foods, according to Kay Peggs,
professor of sociology at Kingston University in the U.K.

Lorkowski reinforces the health benefits of vegan eating for
many individuals. “The diet is increasingly of interest, as is
the idea that you can do something beneficial to your health by
choosing the right products.”

Many other experts believe the recent interest around veganism
is more than a trend. “There is a lot of concern around
health,” Peggs said. “So it will keep rising.”

A Balanced Plant-Based Diet

Of course, meat alternatives like vegan bratwurst or beer
sausages are largely made up of protein. A well-rounded vegan
diet – like any well-rounded diet – would best center around
fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds,
treating meat substitutes as a sometimes food.

Indeed, a lack of balance in vegan eating concerns the German
Nutrition Society (GNS), which has offered its own position on
veganism, which is understandably controversial:

“With a pure plant-based diet, it is difficult or impossible to
attain an adequate supply of some nutrients. The most critical
nutrient is vitamin B12. Other potentially critical nutrients
in a vegan diet include protein resp. indispensable amino
acids, long-chain n-3 fatty acids, other vitamins (riboflavin,
vitamin D) and minerals (calcium, iron, iodine, zinc and

Not everybody agrees with the harsh tone of the German
Nutrition Society. Jimmy Pierson of England’s Vegan Society
National Public Radio
, “With a little planning and
knowledge, rest assured, you can get everything you need from a
vegan diet for great health … at any age.”

While the GNS does overblow the potential nutritional
shortcomings in vegan eating, the main vitamin to worry about
is B12. And it’s really important to understand B12, as the
vitamin doesn’t occur naturally in any plants.

All vegans need to supplement or get B12 from fortified foods,
or they risk developing a deficiency.

model of vitamin B12

Photo credit: p_a_h
via /

Ginny Messina
, a registered dietician and author of The
Vegan R.D
. blog, says there are only two reliable sources
of vitamin B12 for vegans: foods fortified with this nutrient
(which includes nutritional yeast grown on a B12-rich medium)
and supplements.

She suggests that vegans acquire vitamin B12 through the
following methods:

  • Eat two servings per day of foods fortified with at least 2
    to 3.5 mcg of vitamin B12 each. You’ll need to eat these
    servings at least 4 hours apart to allow for optimal
  • Take a daily supplement providing 25 to 100 mcg of vitamin
  • Take a supplement providing 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12 twice
    per week.

Messina also suggests that most vegans supplement with
Vitamin D and iodine
. A healthy vegan, she says, eats
legumes, chooses healthy fats, identifies important
supplements, eats a rainbow of foods, and celebrates veganism.

So it seems that, while moving toward veganism can include meat
substitutes, a healthy plant-based diet, much like any healthy
diet, is more likely based on a variety of whole plant foods
that include conscious selections of nutrients.

bell peppers and summer squash

Photo credit: Samantha
via / CC BY

As vegan food in Germany and worldwide becomes more
popular, we’ll probably see more new plant-based food
products and more discussion about what makes up a healthy
vegan diet.

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