If Being Vegan's Is All the Hype, Why Aren't Middle East Fast Food Chains All Over It?

Published January 16th, 2020 - 01:17 GMT
If Being Vegan's Is All the Hype, Why Aren't Middle East Fast Food Chains All Over It?
Fast-food chains are likely to achieve success by delivering their vegan options to the UAE. (Shutterstock)

Many fast-food chains have started to cater to vegan consumers by offering new meatless options, hoping to attract more customers. As vegan meal options offered by KFC, Burger King, and Greggs take off in the US and UK and plant-based brands record higher, is it time for Middle East markets to follow suit?

Recently, UK-based Greggs announced that its sales have surged by 13.5% during 2019, attributing this success to its vegan sausage meal. Besides plans to expand to more than 100 other sites within the UK, Greggs also promised its vegan customers new plant-based options.

By the beginning of 2020, KFC in the UK and Ireland launched Quorn fillets and vegan dippers during a four-day trial and revealed a complete success in a tweet. 

These vegan options, in addition to Burger King's Impossible Whopper are receiving plenty of attention.

Some vegans expressed joy over finally having an option to enjoy while in the company of non-vegan friends, in addition to having a fast, inexpensive meal option. But there have also been concerns about vegan items being cooked with the same utensils used to prepare meat meals.

And many customers talked about vegan meals actually tasting better than expected.

These successes are not surprising, considering that veganism continues to be one of the top global trends. The positive feedback that was reflected in sales and profits can encourage fast-food manufacturers to plan similar options for Middle Eastern markets, especially ones with high expat populations.

The UAE, for example, successfully attracts a large number of people from all over the world, with 80% of its 9 million population being expatriates - many of whom are American and European.

Veganism has been one of the fastest growing trends in the country, with hundreds of new restaurants dedicated to creating vegan dishes for people who abstain from eating meat and dairy, making it en route to become one of the most vegan-friendly countries.

Many of the UAE based vegans follow a plant-based diet for reasons related to animal rights or for health considerations. Also, 25% of the population are followers of Hinduism, according to the 2017 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report. While religious Hindus don't necessarily have to refrain from eating meat, they are encouraged by their faith to protect other valuable lives including that of other creatures, which makes the vegan diet a pretty popular choice.

Even though it's hard to obtain accurate figures regarding the number of vegans living in the UAE, the continuous rise of numbers of vegan-only restaurants in the country indicates a steadily growing trend in the multi-cultural community of the gulf state.

Fast-food chains could very well achieve mass success if they deliver vegan options in gulf countries like the UAE. There, a food market is already thriving, making it a prime location to test tasty, fast, and affordable options that simultaneously cater to vegan communities.  

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