Vegan cookies, vegan burgers, vegan water — if it seems like you're seeing vegan everywhere you go, that's because you probably are.
Even though only around two per cent of Australians identified as vegan according to Australian Dietary Guidelines. But that figure is growing by the day.
Generally, a vegetarian avoids eating meat, poultry, shellfish — sometimes referenced as "anything with a face." A vegan is someone who refrains from eating all animal products. So while some vegetarians eat things such as eggs, cheese and yoghurt, vegans do not eat dairy or any animal byproducts, like gelatin.
Sometimes veganism extends beyond the person's diet and into their lifestyle, with some choosing not to wear leather or silk and even feeding their pets a vegan diet. It just depends on the individual.
What the Australian Dietary Guidelines doesn't take into account are those who are part-time vegans or are simply reducing their intake of animal products. Euromonitor International predicts that by 2020, Australia's packaged vegan food market would be worth $215 million.
A primarily plant-based diet can help those looking to lose weight, but the benefits don't stop there. Studies have shown that a vegan diet can decrease the risk of stroke and heart disease and protect against cancer.
Whether you're looking to go vegan for environmental reasons, health reasons or just because, the journey to a plant-based lifestyle doesn't have to be a daunting one.
Those who have extensive experience with vegan diets and lifestyles agree that the most important thing about trying out veganism is to come to it with an open mind and start off slowly rather than diving in headfirst.
So, be a part-time vegan and see if it's for you. You might be surprised at how little you find yourself giving up or missing from your normal diet.
In the US the vegan thing is in full swing. Three per cent of Americans identified as vegan in a recent Gallup poll, almost 20 per cent of food sales came from plant-based products and the category is surpassing overall food sales.
Kirsten Ussery, co-owner of Detroit Vegan Soul, says that even though vegan food is never going to taste exactly like meat, you can make it pretty similar by using the right flavours and textures, which is mostly what people are after.
Ussery and partner Erika Boyd started Detroit Vegan Soul as a meal delivery service in 2012 because of their own personal journeys and the lack of vegan options in the city. They wanted to break the cycle of disease within their families, but also didn't want to have to give up the cuisine they were raised on — soul food.
"People will enjoy good food whether it's vegan or not," Ussery says. "We believed that given the option, more people would be interested in plant-based food once they experience it and see that the stereotypes they have about it aren't true."
Michael Hornick, the vice president of the Chicago Diner — meat-free since 1983 — says that the transition to plant-based foods has to be small.
"It's getting people to open up and see that they can eat vegetarian and vegan without missing the flavours that they grew up on," Hornick says.
"It's important to present the food in a way that ... isn't intimidating and is a similar experience to what they might be used to."
Hornick understands that there's nothing comforting about trying new food, so he tries to make "something new taste like something familiar."
The restaurant serves comfort foods like country fried steak and corned beef sandwiches — all vegan. It all comes down to making the right substitutions. By using ingredients like beans, seitan and tofu, Hornick is able to practically replicate any meat favourite as a vegan dish.
"Just give it a chance, there are plenty of vegetarian restaurants in every city — it's one meal. If you didn't like it, you're going to have another meal later," Hornick says.
Celebrity chef Matthew Kenney, who was named one of Food & Wine magazine's Best New Chefs in 1994, has been vegan for 16 years, agrees that the transition to vegan food is only getting easier.
"One of the first things that I encourage people to do is substitute dairy with dairy alternatives — there's just so many great products on the market already, so it's an easy transition," Kenney says.
He says he also finds vegan food the most exciting way to eat these days, given the rise in plant-based products and all the unique things chefs are learning to do with plants.
"Try it, one meal a day, one meal a week, and incorporate plants in a space where you normally wouldn't," says Kenney. "Listen to your palate, listen to your body."