The vegan revolution has been driven by big business as well as better informed young people who want to eat healthily and save the planet, campaigner Heather Mills has said.
The businesswoman, who runs the successful Vbites food range, was speaking at the launch of Plant-Based Valley – on the site of a former cosmetics site in Seaton Delaval, Northumberland – which she hopes to develop into a powerhouse for the meat-free sector, and bring much needed-jobs to the region.
Ms Mills had intended to develop a site in Austria but changed her plans when she heard that the former Coty plant was closing, and will use the site to drive her business and use it as a base to help to vegan start-ups.
She said the vegan revolution in the UK has been partly driven by the corporate world taking notice of the size of the market, and developing it.
The City was surprised by the £550 million sale of Quorn, followed by huge prices paid for other meat-free businesses around the world.
Ms Mills said: “It’s all down to corporates seeing they can make some money from it.
“The reason things became stratospheric are because of these big sales.”
She also said young people are more environmentally aware than their parents, and are open to becoming vegan.
The 51-year-old said: “In 2009 I was on TV talking about the papers the United Nations put out – if we didn’t stop deforestation and reduce our consumption of meat and dairy, there would be catastrophic disasters, and we can see that happening around the world everywhere.
“Sir David Attenborough put a section of that on his Blue Planet and people listen to authorities like him.
“Millennials and their kids are way smarter than my generation – they have access to information.
“Unfortunately, in the past, it was just tabloid newspapers and they believed what they said.
“They are smarter, they asked questions, they are informed and they are pushing the demand.
“They are demanding for cleaner, healthier, better foods, for themselves, their health, the animals and the environment.”
Ms Mills added: “Sooner or later – and I pray that it is sooner for the sake of our children and our children’s children – many more of us are going to have to embrace much more of a plant-based way of eating and living as a solution to the climate change crisis.
“As that crisis is rapidly worsening at alarming speed, I want the North East to be up and running with innovative new ideas and discoveries and ready to deal with the demand for climate-friendly living which, without doubt, is going to happen.”
She has high hopes for a new plant-based, fish-free Omega-3 product made from algae.
She said: “Omega-3 oil from fish is no longer sustainable.
“Overfishing and fish-farming have a seriously detrimental effect on the marine environment, plus there’s the worry from research which has shown that the vast majority of fish caught now contain industrial toxins and pollutants.”
Vbites produces 140 products and employs 300 people in the North East, but she hopes that could double in a year.