FOR years vegan cuisine could be considered quite a limited area but of late its popularity has taken off.
Long gone are the one-off uninspiring options on the menu - and in their place entire restaurants and cafes dedicated to delicious food which bears no trace of meat or animal by-product in their ingredients.
Now Essex is getting a major festival dedicated to all things vegan.
Vegan queen Victoria Bryceson is behind the inaugural event which is heading for the town’s Charter Hall in Colchester.
She hopes food fans from across the county will head to the event on March 4 and it will become a regular culinary fixture in years to come.
Around 100 stalls are already booked, explains Victoria, who already organises around 30 similar events across the country.
Originally from Cumbria, Victoria explains she travels around the whole of the UK.
“I’ve been vegetarian for 22 years and during that time did not eat any eggs, then I cut out milk ten years ago,” says Victoria.
As well as running the festivals as a business Victoria is is currently in Borneo where she spends a number of months each year carrying out voluntary work in her own time.
She is running an animal shelter there as part of her charity Miracle’s Mission, which she voluntarily runs.
Victoria set up the animal welfare charity having rescued a tiny pup, whom she called Miracle, from the Malaysian country at just a week old.
Visitors to Essex Vegan Festival will be able to try out cooked and raw food stalls as well as pies, cakes, chocolates, sandwiches and salads, juices and smoothies.
The event will also go beyond food and offer suggestions for vegan friendly beauty and skincare products, candles, jewellery, crafts, clothing and charity merchandise.
Victoria says they have also organised cookery demonstrations to take place during the day.
“They will be highlighting the very best aspects of living a vegan lifestyle and there will be free samples and nutritional advice.
“I wanted to set up a vegan festival in Essex as it’s an area that I feel has been left behind a bit in terms of veganism.
“I want to show people that Essex has so many amazing veggie/vegan places to eat and shop at and that it’s a really great area for vegans,” she adds.
She says she hopes this will help Essex catch up with other areas where she regularly holds similar festivals.
Among those demonstrating their wares at the event will be Colchester’s own vegan eateries Nourish Co, in St John’s Street, and the Den at 23.
Both produce vegan goodies at their cafes and have been hugely popular with customers since launching in the past few years.
Jennifer Dunn, who opened the Den at 23, in Crouch Street, with husband Rob almost two years ago says there has been a definite surge in interest and popularity for the vegan lifestyle in recent years.
“I became vegan 14 years ago and back then I was quite limited with what I could have when I was out about but I think we are really moving away from the idea that being vegan is about giving things up.
“You can have all the things you would normally have and they are just as nice. You can have cakes and biscuits and burgers,” says Jen who serves up a range of treats both hot and cold at her cafe.
She says they will probably stick to cold produce such as cupcakes and cookies and their trademark vegan chocolate bars for the Charter Hall event.
And she says while there have been other vegan-based events in the area, including one she organised herself, this is the largest of its kind so far.
“It is really good to see something on a large scale which will attract people from a wide area and we wanted to be there so we could get the word out about what we do as well.”
Stallholders will travel from all over the UK, some as far north as Glasgow, to set up alongside local producers and Victoria hopes they will attract visitors from across the county as a whole and not just Colchester.
Essex Vegan Festival is at Charter Hall Colchester from 11am to 5pm on Saturday, March 4.
Admission £3, is payable on the day on the door or £13 VIP tickets can be bought in advance which include fast track entry inside and a goody bag full of products, samples, discounts and offers. Contact email@example.com for more details