Veganism to become mainstream across MEA in 2019

RetailME Bureau

According to the latest Uber Eats FoodCast, 2019 will be the year that veganism becomes mainstream across the Middle East and Africa region.

Based on the biggest increases in customer search volumes on the Uber Eats app over the last six months – having analysed more than 191 million searches – edible flowers and meat substitutes like seitan and heme are set to appear on many more restaurant menus across the region next year.

The complete list of the hottest food trends for 2019 includes edible flowers (borage blossoms, lavender and hibiscus); the protein rich, meat substitute, seiten; manaeesh, daily bread of the Eastern Mediterranean; heme, an ingredient that allows plant-based food to ‘bleed’; and poke, the Hawaiian sushi bowl.

According to Jeanette Mellinger, head of Uber Eats User Research, as people become more conscious of what they eat, we can expect plant-based superfoods to continue to rise in popularity. “As our search data shows, food preferences are constantly evolving and the latest is a rise in socially-conscious diners. In line with this, we expect to see veganism become increasingly mainstream, rising from just a few percent in each country to a lifestyle choice for millions of individuals.”

Showing the changing palates of vegans to flexitarians, jackfruit, often seen as the vegan alternative to pulled meat, is predicted to fall out of flavour with many as the meat-free offering widens.

In addition, clean-eating staples matcha and aloe vera are also on the list of items Uber Eats data shows will decline in the coming 12 months. Coffees, on the other hand, will return to being a hot drink, as cold brew also makes the top five list of food and drink items anticipated to be in decline.

Alongside predicting what’s going to be hot and what’s not next year, the 2019 Uber Eats FoodCast also revealed the UAE’s most popular foods of 2018. The Middle East’s love for garlic continues, topping the list of the most searched for items. Acai has rapidly risen in popularity as the second most popular item in picture-perfect breakfast bowls and smoothies, signalling the nation’s growing appetite for new and healthy flavours.

Traditional Middle Eastern items such as tahini, hummus and manaeesh feature alongside punchy international flavours such as miso, truffle and sriracha and the super trendy seaweed, paleo and quinoa items all featuring in the top 20 food searches of 2018.

“Customer search volumes also show that food delivery apps like Uber Eats are quickly transforming food delivery from a guilty pleasure at the weekend, to an increasing important part of our daily food habits. As we look ahead to 2019, we also expect to see customers search for more low-cost, healthier, ‘everyday’ meal options,” concludes Mellinger.