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UK Chefs/Restaurants Challenge: Wake up to Exploding Demand for Dairy Free Vegan Desserts!

UK Chefs/Restaurants Challenge: Wake up to Exploding Demand for Dairy Free Vegan Desserts!

| by Tony Bishop-Weston

In the run-up to the UK’s first vegan Trade Show VegfestUK Trade at Olympia London on Friday October 20th 2017, vegan chef and cookbook author Tony Bishop–Weston takes a close look at options for Vegan plant-based dairy free desserts on the market.

Trade and Media professionals can register to attend VegfestUK Trade for free at 


Some say that Vegans are getting greedy. Not satisfied that dairy free vegan cheesy pizzas are now ubiquitously available and supermarkets are full of vegan cheese choices, now vegans want their vegan cake and to eat it! Not content with being able to get non-dairy milk in their coffee, new vegan sandwiches everywhere and new vegan main courses on menus throughout the UK, ethical consumers are now demanding they get a vegan choice for desserts too! Seems fair.


Favourite Vegan Dessert Twitter Survey Poll

So what should food manufacturers, chefs and restaurants lead with? In our makeshift Twitter survey, it did seem to suggest that Tesco were right in opting for a new vegan fruit cheesecake. The dairy free vegan cheesecake was a favourite choice for dessert, only narrowly beaten by votes for the category for cakes or chocolate brownies. The ice cream category didn’t score so highly but we suppose it’s assumed diners would want their dessert served with vegan ice cream as normal for non-vegan items on the dessert menu. A few people complained there was no vegan chocolate mousse option but we tried to keep the poll to broad categories. Obviously, this is non-conclusive, but a useful barometer nonetheless.


Vegan Dairy Free Industry investment at a record high

Market analysts MarketsandMarkets™ announced in a press release that “The global Dairy Alternatives Market is expanding with considerable growth potential over the next five years. The growth of this market can be attributed to the growing inclination towards vegan, especially plant-based food, growing lactose intolerance among a large section of the population, and rising demand for various innovative dairy-free applications.”

In the report "Dairy Alternatives Market by Type (Soy, Almond, Coconut, Rice, Oat, Hemp), Formulation (Plain & Sweetened, Plain & Unsweetened, Flavored & Sweetened, Flavored & Unsweetened), Application (Food, Beverages), and Region - Global Forecast to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets™, the Dairy Alternatives Market was valued at USD 7.37 Billion in 2016. It is projected to grow at a CAGR of 11.7% from 2017, to reach USD 14.36 Billion by 2022. The base year considered for this study is 2016, while the forecast period is from 2017 to 2022. 


Higher Still

An even more optimistic outlook was revealed by July 2017, US$2bn higher by only 2018. In their interview with Innova Market Insights, new data on food trends were discussed due to be presented at the IFT Food Expo in Las Vegas “The global market for dairy alternative drinks is expected to reach US$16.3bn in 2018, up dramatically from US$7.4bn in 2010. Significant developments in this area include the acquisition of WhiteWave in 2016 by Danone providing the opportunity to further developing its’ interests in this dynamic market in both North America and Europe.”

Danone have meanwhile announced that they are diverting millions of dollars from their advertising budget to re-focus on and boost sales of their newly acquired dairy free vegan range.


Puddings Vegan by accident

You used to be able to get steamed puddings such as jam roly poly, syrup pudding, treacle tart, apple pie, mince pies etc that were accidentally vegan. Then manufacturers and caterers started removing hydrogenated fat and many producers moved back to butter, and vegans were back to a choice of fruit or fruit salad again with the occasional sorbet.


Supermarkets blazing a dairy free vegan trail

Luckily supermarkets have been trialling free-from choices and proving the huge demand for vegan products. They now seem to be discovering the simple logic of just making products vegan instead of dairy free with egg, gluten free with dairy, egg free with pork gelatine. Thus, there was always a percentage of customers left disappointed. This is now beginning to change. The new Tesco’s dairy free, egg free, gelatine free, gluten free fruit cheesecakes seemed to have hit the spot with consumers.


Coconut, Snowconut, Oats and Almonds are the new Dairy

No one can deny the explosion of dairy free vegan alternatives to yoghurt, crème fraiche and creamy puddings in the last year. There seems to be a coconut or almond dessert of almost every concoction imaginable. Chocolate and all types of berries mixed with creamy concoctions of nut cream or plant based yoghurt seem to be popping up on shelves everywhere. Rice pudding seems to be making a comeback too, but with coconut milk instead of butter and cow’s milk.


Did you want Vegan Ice Cream with that Sir?

Vegan Ice cream is gaining in popularity too. The Times reported that Theresa May and EU leaders were served a summit dessert of dairy-free “almond milk” ice cream. An aide noted that the pudding was served a week after an EU court ruling that almond or soya products could not be called “milk”. Our local Waitrose in rural Hampshire has a whole freezer devoted to Dairy free ice cream.


Beaulieu chocolate Studio shop in cattle grid protected Beaulieu village, New Forest, has just launched two new flavours of vegan ice cream. Local football enthusiast, Giacomo Bigazzi (15) (half Italian, not a vegan) said the vegan salted caramel gelato ice cream is “really nice.” A tourist tried the dark chocolate sorbet and said, “That’s amazing, I can’t believe that’s not Ice cream!”


Chefs and Restaurants begin to follow Supermarket’s Vegan lead

Pizza Express Italian style restaurant is leading with coconut ice cream based dessert whilst Pret a Manger, Zizzi and Ask opted for vegan chocolate options.

One of Pret’s best sellers at the new Veggie*Pret was the vegan chocolate coated coconut bar but they also have an elusive vegan cholate brownie too.

Zizzi’s chocolate torte served with coconut and cocoa sorbet is wowing customers and Ask launched a chocolate and orange tart served with coconut ice cream.


With so many examples of delicious vegan dessert availability, coupled with obvious rising sales proving customers preferences, it’s harder than ever for chefs to claim “there’s not much call for that around here”. The other thing that is happening is that expectations have been raised. Lack of vegan dessert options is becoming a sign of professional culinary neglect and laziness rather than a legitimate policy to purposefully ignore the demands of ‘awkward customers’ and ‘fussy eaters’. Consumers are far less likely to meekly and resignedly accept their preferences are not being met by caterers when delicious solutions are so ubiquitously available.


Basic Dairy Free Vegan Recipes

Even without access to availability, budget or permission for chefs to purchase vegan desserts it’s so easy to make desserts with everyday ingredients. Soya milk and oil can quickly be blended into dairy free cream. Aquafaba (water from tins of chickpeas or beans) can be whisked with icing sugar and vanilla to make a light whipped cream for making lighter ice cream and mousses or simply baked for 2 hours at a low temperature to make meringues.

You can find my full recipe at the link here.


Basic vegan recipe for crème fraiche/cream/mayo


  • 250 ml apple sweetened soya milk
  • 250ml vegetable oil
  • 1 lemon


  1. Heat soy milk
  2. Add in oil
  3. In a jug blend together hot milk and cold oil with stick blender, gradually add juice from lemon until liquid emulsifies to crème faiche consistency
  4. Use as cream
  5. Add melted chocolate to make chocolate mousse
  6. Or add mustard and ketchup to make marie rose style sauce


About the author

Tony Bishop-Weston Vegan is consultant development chef with Foods for Life Health and Nutrition, author and former business development advisor with The Vegan Society and The Vegetarian Society. @bishopweston


Visit VegfestUK Trade and source a huge variety of vegan desserts and other vegan products

VegfestUK Trade will consist of up to 160 stalls with some of the best vegan desserts and other cutting edge vegan products, including Pudology, Coyo, Ms. Cupcake, Cupcakes & Shhht, Jollyum, Nush Foods and Yorica! amongst many awesome brands.

There will also be 6 featured areas of panel discussions by experts in the vegan Trade and Media circles sharing their insights in managing vegan businesses and accessing the growing vegan market. In particular, there will be a vegan pastries, cakes and desserts panel and tasting session by a panel of industry experts in the vegan desserts market, in the Plant-Based Chefs Corner.

Trade and Media professionals can register to attend for free at 

Get Involved! If you have a great Vegan news feed, blog, podcast or video channel that you’d like us to include your focus on in the site, then please just contact us at with details!

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