Veggies, the UK’s ‘longest-established’ vegan event caterer

14/05/2018 - 07:00
With 3.5 million Britons now identifying as vegans, and more people actively looking for relevant options when eating out of home, catering company Veggies is enjoying a boom, reports James Callery.

Veggies is a volunteer-led, community-based social enterprise based in Nottingham, providing vegan catering at events around the UK.

Co-founder Pat Smith claims it is not the first, but is the longest-serving vegan event caterer in the UK, having started in 1984.

Veggies Catering Campaign was set up over three decades ago by four friends who were frustrated about the lack of vegetarian fast food available in Nottingham.

Their intention was both to provide an ethical fast food stall in the city, and to take the veggie message to a wider audience by participating in demonstrations and gatherings.

Veggies serves finger food using fairly traded, organically grown and/or locally sourced ingredients.

It also provides free books, magazines, leaflets, recipes and other sources of information exploring the links between diet, animal suffering and the environment.

The website has a directory of more than 300 vegan and vegetarian caterers in the UK, searchable by city. This ensures that events that require vegan caterers do not miss out when Veggies is not available. The website also features a diary of events that Veggies is covering.

Veggies isn’t just about vegan food, though. Keeping waste products to a minimum is also part of its mission, and Smith feels the caterer is ‘a little ahead of the game’ when it comes to its waste policy.

Veggies promotes minimal packaging and the use of recycled goods. The company generally does not use disposable plates, mugs or cutlery, and takes back for recycling all bought-in product packaging, including bottles, cans and Tetra Paks. China mugs are utilised, even at major festivals. At events of over 300 to 400 people, attendees bring their own plates and cutlery and also help to wash up, in keeping with Veggies’ DIY ethic.

The company also has a voluntary deposit scheme for water bottles, with the proceeds from water sales helping to support Water Aid projects. 

Smith notes: “When it comes in on a mandatory basis we’ll be very pleased to reassure other caterers that it can be done, and it can be very successful and popular with the customers."

Veggies also compiles a diary of community and campaign events in Nottingham and beyond, including the UK Animal Rights Calendar and Vegan Outreach Diary.

The workers’ co-operative has three staff members sharing one living-waged job.

Smith says: “The big companies are now falling over backwards to have vegan options available on any menu, any high street store. Hopefully we’ll be seeing this for event caterers as well. Invariably, in any crowd of people you’ll have people looking for vegan options, so if you want to get that extra revenue, catering for them is a good thing.

“Those who have just started a vegan pop-up business can take on catering at a street market with minimum investment and lots of facilities. They try out new ideas and new recipes. If it’s successful on a street market the can expand the plans for their business. If the idea doesn’t work out, they’ve only lost £35 store fee and a day’s work. So street markets are very much a good way for these people to get involved in trying out their ideas.”

A juggler’s convention and a Steampunk festival are among the most unusual events that Veggies has covered in recent months. In the near future, the company will serve food at punk gigs for the homeless and at an event raising awareness of the exploitation of greyhounds.

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