Greggs has launched a vegan steak bake and while many people are absolutely delighted, others are particularly disappointed with the name. Their argument? It’s not meat so can you really call it a ‘steak’ bake?!
The launch, which marked the start of Veganuary, follows in the footsteps of the bakery chain’s successful vegan sausage roll, which had a surge in sales thanks to publicity of the product last January, fuelled by a certain TV presenter’s outrage about it.
And, true to form, said TV presenter had something to say about the latest launch. “It’s not a steak,” said Good Morning Britain host, Piers Morgan, when he returned to TV screens on 6 January. “If you Google steak, a steak is a cut of meat or fish, it’s not vegan or vegetarian.”
Morgan then pointed at a picture of beef steak and continued: “That is a steak, this is not... and they should not be using meat terminology to sell non-meat products.”
Customers were first able to buy the fake meat bake on the evening of 1 January 2020 – with people gathering in their droves outside selected stores to get their hands – and tastebuds – on the product, which stars Quorn (a meat substitute), diced onions and gravy, wrapped in puff pastry.
The following day, as vegan bakes were flying off shelves, there was a pattern of outrage over the name.
“It’s a vegetarian / vegan bake. Sell it as it is,” one wrote on Twitter. Another posted: “Why isn’t it called a vegetable bake?”
So, can companies actually get away with calling vegetarian or vegan products meaty names? In 2018, France prohibited products made from non-animal ingredients to be given such names, but the same hasn’t happened in the UK.
In July 2019, The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee found no evidence that terms like these are misleading for consumers. The Committee was responding to an EU proposal to ban names like ‘burger’, ‘sausage’ and ‘steak’ when naming vegan and vegetarian food products. Instead, it was suggested they should be called “vegetarian discs” or, ahem, “veggie tubes”.
At the time, The Vegan Society suggested the change would cause “confusion and time wasting”. The Committee agreed, saying such a move would reduce consumer clarity, be a barrier to growth for this sector of the food industry, and make it more challenging for people to reduce the amount of meat in their diet “at a time when government should be seeking to encourage the opposite”.
Zac Goldsmith, Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, wrote in a letter: “Vegetarian sausages and burgers have been on the UK and European market for many years now and where they are clearly and honestly labelled, as the large majority are, consumers are not at all misled.”
He did add, however, that vegetarian foods should not be marketed in a way that suggests a nutritional equivalence with meat products where this does not exist.
The Committee said legislative action by the EU is “unnecessary” and “would undermine EU policy objectives on climate change, the environment and public health”. It’s unclear what happens next, especially in the context of Brexit, but in the meantime, it seems the UK’s vegan steak bakes are safe.