By Nadeem Badshah
ENTREPRENEUR Hiren Chohan is planting the seeds for a vegan revolution.
The 27-year-old is the founder of Where to Vegan, a website listing restaurants and products with plant-based ingredients.
He is also behind monthly night markets selling vegan cuisine with different themes including live music, karaoke, speed dating, meditation and documentary screenings.
From this month, the markets will take place on the second Saturday of each month in Leicester.
An increasing number of Britons take part in Veganuary, giving up animal foods from meat, fish, shellfish and insects to dairy and honey in January.
Chohan said it was a visit to the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean, regarded as one of the world’s premier destinations for wildlife, which set him on the path towards veganism.
He told Eastern Eye: “I was a vegetarian since the age of 14 and became vegan on Boxing Day 2018 after spending eight months travelling in South America.
“I was initially intrigued about veganism as I really cared for the welfare of animals.
“But I was lucky enough to visit the Galapagos Islands and this really opened my eyes to the effect of carbon emissions.
“The more I learned, the more I realised veganism truly is the way forward. I feel the strongest I’ve ever felt both physically and mentally, and I am just so excited to promote the vegan lifestyle to more people.”
The vegan food market has become big business in the UK. Sales of vegan and vegetarian products in the UK were worth an estimated £572 million in 2017 and sales are expected to rise to £658m by 2021, according to analysts Mintel.
The vegan food movement has also expanded to gourmet burgers, sushi, pizza and kebabs.
And the number of vegans in Britain have quadrupled between 2014 and 2019. Last year there were 600,000 individuals who followed a plant-based diet.
Orders of vegan meals grew 388 per cent between 2016 and 2018 and they are now the UK’s fastest-growing takeaway choice.
More restaurants are offering bespoke vegan offerings, including London restaurants Chokhi Dhani and Mamounia Lounge.
Chohan, who was born in Leicester, said his two brothers are also following in his footsteps with their diet.
He said: “I’m a pretty relaxed kind of guy and not the kind of person who wants to force my own beliefs down people’s throats.
“But I think I’ve certainly encouraged a lot of people to try veganism and Where to Vegan will again be at the forefront of Veganuary 2020.
“My eldest brother is now vegan. My other brother is also trying veganism and I’m pretty sure he’s about to make the jump to becoming a full time vegan.
“Even my PR lady has said she’s going to do Veganuary which is pretty amazing as I know she is partial to a burger!”
Where To Vegan was launched last September and held a Christmas market in Leicester over the festive season. The firm is now in talks with Nottingham and Coventry councils to hold vegan night markets.
Chohan said the idea for the business came from the difficulties in finding vegan cuisine. He said: “I initially started the business as I personally found it so tricky and stressful to find great vegan restaurants where I could eat out.
“So I built a website which made it easier for anyone to find vegan restaurants.
“But as I built the business and networked with vegan restaurants and traders, I realised I couldn’t put traders on the website because they didn’t have a permanent location. This frustrated me as the traders I met had incredible vegan products which I truly wanted to help promote.
“That was the Eureka moment when I decided to also run vegan events.”
Chohan believes the public are more aware about the impact that industrial meat and dairy industry has on animals and the environment.
“I honestly think there is an increased will to live a more compassionate life which is kinder to the environment,” he said.
“People are now much more educated about the awful cruelty that animals go through just to end up on our dinner plates, as well as the important changes we need to make now if we are going to save the planet.
“I think they are also really beginning to understand that veganism is a credible, healthy alternative to a diet which includes animal products.
“The amount of great vegan products out there really makes it easier for people to choose veganism. The amount of information out there on the internet and social media is so great nowadays that people are able to do their own research and make up their own minds.”