Will Greggs’ festive fake meat dishes be a hit with customers like the chain’s vegan sausage roll?
“Nobody wanted a vegan b****y sausage, PC-looted clowns!”
So said the infamous tweet from Piers Morgan, who responded to the news in January 2019 that the high street Greggs was launching a “vegetable” sausage roll.
He couldn’t have been more wrong. The Quorn-and-Puff Pastry offering quickly became one of Greggs’ bestsellers, driving a 14 percent increase in profits that year.
It was also kind of a turning point.
Up until then, fake meat products were quite niche – The Mail on Sunday was one of the first to report on the new wave of vegan ‘beef’ burgers that looked, smelled, tasted and even ‘bled’ like real, but were made from textured ground beef of soy or pea protein.
Yes, they were plant-based, but as one writer put it, about as natural as a can of Dulux emulsion. Despite this, they have been unfailingly popular.
But for Newcastle-based bakery chain Greggs, which has more than 2,000 outlets, going vegan was a bold move. It paid off and spawned a series of imitators.
About three percent of Brits are vegan and never eat meat or dairy. But more than a third of Brits say they’re trying to cut their meat intake in an effort to eat healthier, and these foods are targeting them.
So is a vegan sausage roll healthier than the real thing? Not really.
Each contains half a teaspoon of salt — a third of the daily recommended limit — and more fat than a Big Mac.
Last week, perhaps hoping to repeat the success of the vegan sausage roll, Greggs unveiled the Vegan Festive Bake — a fake meat version of his “much loved” Festive Bake. Twitter was divided.
The Mail on Sunday’s Health editors Eve Simmons (left) and Barney Calman try out the new Greggs Vegan Christmas Bake at a store in Fulham
Finally tried the Vegan Festive bake and [Greggs] left alone and knocked it all out of the park,” wrote Paul, a Geordie in London. Not everyone agreed.
The Greggs Vegan Festive Bake is absolutely class. Ruined my day,” Kiera complained from Liverpool.
On Friday, The Mail on Sunday’s deputy health editor Eve Simmons and I went to a local branch to give our verdict on the taste — and see if you’re doing your health a favor by eating one.
I’m a vegetarian and, I have to admit, I’m a bit of a vegan sausage roll fan.
When served hot, it hits that flaky, chewy, greasy, salty spot that real sausage rolls do. (Cold, it’s a bit wooden, unfortunately.)
But Greggs bakes is an acquired taste.
They all follow a format: a square puff pastry pie the size of a large wallet, with a filling that resembles a pasta, possibly with bits of something.
The regular Greggs Festive Bake features cooked chicken (why not turkey?), stuffing, and bacon “topped with a creamy sage and cranberry sauce.”
So we were able to do a side-by-side comparison with the vegan version, I put my principles aside – and we both tried one.
As I suspected, while the pastry was impressively crisp, the filling was rather dismal. Aside from the chicken bits, the main flavor was a generic sweetness, delivered by the sugary cranberry sauce with the occasional bit of bacon.
I really wasn’t a fan of them as they seemed a bit odd and greasy.
Oddly enough, despite that, it was more: I ate it all, and Eva, who was usually contemptuous of these things, ate almost all of her. “I was hungry” was her excuse.
The Quorn-and-Puff Pastry offering quickly became one of Greggs’ bestsellers, driving a 14 percent increase in profits that year. It was also a turning point in 2019
On to the Vegan Festive Bake, a puff pastry pie filled with ‘savory Quorn bits of mycoprotein, sage and onion filling balls and vegan bacon crumbs, deliciously finished with a delicious sage and cranberry sauce’.
Again, the pastry was great – the butter has been replaced with vegetable oils which make it slightly drier and crispier; but for a gloomy Greggs bin it works perfectly.
It may be better than the butter version, which is quite heavy. But that was for me where the positives ended.
The filling lacked any definition. The main flavor was sage, and I couldn’t make out the Quorn except for the odd grainy, firmer bit in the homogeneous paste.
You can get “vegan bacon crumbles” from supermarkets – with an ingredient list as long as your arm – and I assume they used this.
I’m not a fan of this. Cloying is the word that comes to mind.
Eve, a carnivore, is more cheerful. ‘I quite like it. It’s fun. Sagey and Christmassy,’ she said. Again, despite the blandness, we each finish a pie.
If you’re a Greggs fan turned vegan, this is exactly what you’re looking for. If you’re buying one as a healthy option I really wouldn’t worry
Weird Science: The Antibiotic That Can Make You Blue
A man in Australia was hospitalized after the whites of his eyes turned blue.
On arrival at the emergency room at the Central Coast Local Health District in New South Wales, the 73-year-old was also found to have blue-tinged skin.
A man in Australia was hospitalized after the whites of his eyes turned blue. [File image]
Doctors discovered that he had been taking minocycline, an antibiotic that can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, for more than a decade.
Studies have shown that long-term use of the drug can lead to skin hyperpigmentation, where patches change color.
In a report published in the British medical journal Case Reports, clinicians noted that the tint did not affect the man’s vision or health.
How do they fare nutritionally? A regular Festive Bake has 453 calories – quite hefty for a patty that fits in the palm of your hand.
Experts suggest that men consume about 2500 calories per day and women 2000.
They recommend 400 calories for breakfast and 600 for lunch and dinner. Snacks and drinks make up the rest. Consuming more regularly means you will gain weight.
It has 27g of fat, 14g of which is saturated fat, presumably from the dough – and a little more than a Big Mac.
It must be because chicken is very low in fat. Diets high in saturated fat have been linked to heart disease.
There’s also 4g (a whole teaspoon) of sugar and 1.7g of salt – equivalent to four and a half packets of Walkers cheese and onion chips. It is recommended that adults consume no more than 6 g of salt per day.
Higher intakes are linked to increased blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks and more. There is 13 g of protein, about the same as half a chicken breast.
Was it filling? I would say it. It’s not a completely fair test, as we both ate a regular and a vegan bowl. But after filling my face in the afternoon, I felt quite satisfied until the evening.
How does the vegan bake compare? Not good.
It’s about the same in calories, but there’s more fat (28g) and almost as much saturated fat (11g) – impressive considering there’s no animal fat.
Where does that saturated fat come from? Quorn, made from ‘mycoprotein’, a fungus, is very low in fat – 2g per 100g of total fat and only 0.8g of saturated fatty acids.
Vegan puff pastry also contains relatively little saturated fat. I’d say there was about 50g of pastry – the total weight is 142g, but the filling is very compact – which amounts to 12g of fat in total and 6g of saturated fat. Greggs gave no further details on ingredients, so it’s a mystery.
There’s almost as much sugar in the vegan bake as there is more salt — five-and-a-half packs of Walkers crisps.
It provides about 8 g of protein, slightly more than in the boiled egg.
If you’re a Greggs fan turned vegan, this is exactly what you’re looking for. If you’re buying one as a healthy option, I really wouldn’t worry.