Veganuary takes a tour around Vegfest London 2018, eating every free sample in sight and talking all things plant-based with the incredible stall-holders and award winning companies
It didn’t take much convincing for the team at Veganuary to wrap up warm and embark upon the annual rail-trip over the weekend as we headed into Kensington, West London, in anticipation of one of the biggest vegan festivals this side of the Atlantic.
The promise of finding all things vegan, plant-based and ethical spread across three floors of the Kensington Olympia Convention centre – filled to near-bursting with like-minded folk and famous faces – was by far enough to motivate us through the bracing autumn winds and London crowds.
Needless to say, Vegfest London is the annual highlight of many a vegan’s calendar. Visitors attend the two-day festival from all over the UK, with guest speakers and stall-holders flying in from far-flung countries, all to congregate in a huge celebration of everything vegan under one roof.
Across the weekend there were approximately 275 different stall holders, offering avid vegans and ‘pregans’ everything from recycled tyre handbags and fermented tea leaves, to ethical clothing, bespoke jewellery, skincare and of course everyone’s highlight of the event: the award-winning food stalls, offering 25 global street-food caterers.
An Electrifying Atmosphere
As we enter the main floor of the festival, we’re taken aback by the sight of hundreds of visitors, enthusiastically exploring the delights on offer. Crowds of people fill each floor, as the festival seems to buzz with an air of excitement. That’s exactly what we love about this iconic event. Vegfest began in 2012, and has grown year upon year into the fantastic, two-day celebration of plant-based living that it is today, attracting over 14,000 people. Two members of the busy crowds told us exactly what brings them back to the festival each year:
“Being able to browse and shop at such a variety of different stalls is brilliant for educating new vegans and helping expand the knowledge of current ones too…I always look forward to spotting some famous faces and listening to the speakers. Vegfest has really progressed over the years, and I’m always excited to see what food outlets they have on offer.”
“I’ve been coming to Vegfest for four years now, and I’m never disappointed! Every year the festival is growing, and every year I find a new product that I couldn’t live without! You just have to be prepared to sample, walk around a lot and bring along a few tote bags for stashing your goods!”
Collecting a rather large crowd of customers, the ever-popular Ms. Cupcake stall was a hive of activity throughout the weekend. Creative lead and owner of Ms. Cupcake, Melissa Morgan, expressed her love for the festival:
“I get to see people I haven’t seen before, people from far and wide, getting to know the loyal customers who love our products, and meeting customers that we get to see only once a year – for me, that’s the best part of being here today…I’m always inspired by other businesses, the talks are fantastic and there’s just so many happy faces…I get to tell people that going vegan is dead simple! Just learn a few tricks of the trade, and soon enough you’ll be asking yourself, why aren’t I vegan yet!?”
Without a doubt, the most popular stalls at Vegfest are always the foodie outlets and street-food vendors. Vegfest is a prime opportunity to showcase mouth-watering products to the ever expanding audience of vegans choosing to visit, sample and buy again. Hungry vegans are spoilt for choice, lusting over cakes and bakes, bowls, tofish ‘n’ chips, bao buns, pizza and mac ‘n’ cheeze. Take it from us, there’s almost too much choice when it comes to lunchtime! Vegfest 2018’s Best Vegan Pizza award winners, One Planet Pizza, proved their credentials by selling out of pizzas on Saturday. Joe Hill, Chief Distributor at One Planet Pizza, was on slice-serving duty all day:
“It’s been mad since the doors opened…we’ve had a never-ending queue of customers since 10am, and it’s not even lunchtime yet! The pizza is selling faster than we can make them, with some customers coming back for second slices. This is what we love about Vegfest, getting people to try our products and receiving feedback straight away.”
Other award-winners of the weekend included Follow Your Heart (best vegan cheese), The Vegan Cakery (best vegan cakes) and What The Pitta (best vegan caterer). A full list of award winners for this year can be found here.
Not only for die-hard food-lovers, Vegfest provides an exciting platform for sellers, producers and pioneering makers to attract new customers and share their cruelty-free, conscious creations. The most innovative products and designs come from the most unlikely of resources (who thought pineapples could be turned into vegan leather?). We were blown away by stall holder Paguro Upcycle, whose bags, belts and jewellery are hand-cut and crafted from the inner tyre of discarded wheels:
“We began as an environmental project. Local transport companies in Indonesia would burn old rubber materials such as disused tyres, melting them to create new synthetic tyres. We wanted to create environmental awareness, and teach the locals how to recycle, and that’s when we began working with them to create unique products from the inner tyre. Each of our bags is unique, with their own track pattern from the tyre, what’s more, they are all waterproof, easy to clean and hard-wearing – a total upgrade from leather!”
Alongside other independent fashion brands stands Plant Faced, a vegan street-wear brand with an ethically-minded owner, Charlie, which boasts some serious style and eco-credentials:
“We’re always blown away with the response from visitors, they really love the street-ware and the casual styles that I design. I want to make messages wearable and attractive to the younger generation, to help inspire and change the stereotypes surrounding vegan fashion. I thrive on meeting everyone at events such as Vegfest, and talking to customers about veganism is the highlight for me.”
Together, We Thrive
Food and goods aside, a huge part of experiencing Vegfest is getting the chance to listen in on the array of guest speakers and conference talks, covering a range of interesting and provocative topics surrounding plant-based lifestyles. This year, speakers included professional basketball player Daniel Edozie, World IFBB Pro athlete Nimai Delgado, Vegan Chef Day, broadcaster, Veganuary ambassador and influencer Sarah Jane-Crawford, nutrition specialist Dr. Gemma Newman and many more. Whatever your interest, there’s bound to be a topic that will inspire, motivate and excite you, made all the more meaningful by sharing your passion amongst likeminded individuals sitting either side of you.
There’s something quite revolutionary in the air at Vegfest, and it’s not the smell of hotdogs or sizzling tempeh (although that’s pretty mouth-watering!). As you wander around, taking in the sights and smells, you get a feeling that you’re amongst the future generation of major influencers.
Each stall holder has their own personal journey to share with you, and unique reasoning as to why they want to change the ways of the current retailers on a global scale. Vegfest, and other great vegan conventions, are such important platforms for future makers, creators and producers to find their feet and launch themselves into the ever-growing market of conscious consumers. The excitement and optimism that these makers bring to Vegfest is what whirls around the atmosphere inside the Olympia, and we can’t wait until next year to see how these influential businesses thrive and shape our everyday lives.
Want to learn more about our influential ambassadors? Follow the link to see the famous faces supporting our cause.