From niche to mainstream: Is the growth of vegan restaurants in Bangkok the new normal
Vegan restaurants were once a niche category. A few years ago, there was probably one vegan restaurant in Bangkok. Today, we are not able to keep count of the number of vegan restaurants opening in Bangkok. The pace of change is so rapid, and it is driven by many factors, but we must say that more and more vegan restaurants are opening in Bangkok because there is a demand as people are realizing that healthy and organic plant-based foods offer the best benefits. These restaurants are opening up in various places and locations across Bangkok and offer a variety of plant-based dishes made from veggies and plant-based meat.
Entrepreneurs and businesses are trying to provide supply for the increasing demand from Bangkokian’s for plant-based food. We visited Pai recently and the hotel restaurant had scrambled tofu on the breakfast menu with other plant-based options. The tofu was organic and served with other local seasonal veggies.
We asked the manager at the hotel when and why they introduced plant-based food into their menu, and she said that they added it in 2020 due to increased demand from Bangkokians who want to eat plant-based food. She specifically said that the pandemic is shifting the way Bangkokians want to eat.
Restaurants which are not exclusively vegan are also offering plant-based menus. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside two years ago, vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian diets were on the rise in Bangkok. The pandemic just accelerated the pace of change. Vegan restaurants are opening in the most remote soi’s in Bangkok, they are not restricted to the Sukhumvit area alone.
Entering the post pandemic era:
None of us could have imagined a pandemic will turn the world upside down in 2019, the thought seemed so unlikely. Even in the beginning of the pandemic, most people thought it would not affect them at all but slowly the realization started dawning on everyone that there must be a change in the way we treat the natural world and grow our food.
There was increasing scientific evidence that the current food system is unsustainable. The understanding that a plant-based diet is the best way forward is slowly creeping into the mindsets of many people in Bangkok as they become aware through documentaries and articles.
As more and more plant-based meat brands are launching in the Thai market, it is becoming easier for chefs to introduce vegan food into their menus. We visited so many different vegan restaurants in Bangkok recently and checked with the chefs on the plant-based meat products they are using, and the answers were MEAT ZERO, LET’S PLANT MEAT, OMNI MEAT and various other products which were all locally made in Thailand.
There are dozens of interesting plant-based dishes using fresh organic veggies popping up on menus across restaurants in Soi Sukhumvit, among other areas in Bangkok.
Statistics showing increased demand for plant-based food in Bangkok:
The pandemic increased concerns about personal health, climate change and animal welfare which is leading to an increased demand for plant-based diets. Another reason is that there is evidence supported by science that a plant-based diet which includes healthy organic greens like broccoli, spinach etc is the best for health. Statistics are indicating that plant-based food is the future, and we will be seeing more vegan restaurants opening in Bangkok.
According to statista.com, in 2019, approximately 8% of the Thailand population did not use meat. This percentage is forecasted to increase in the coming years, it is predicted to reach 15 percent in 2025.
That is almost double what it was before the pandemic.
Easy availability of local plant-based meat in Bangkok:
When we were researching on how the Thai vegan food market is growing rapidly, the one thing we noticed was the availability of plant-based meat at a price point which is affordable to the average Bangkokian. Another aspect was location and place, vegan restaurants are not restricted to posh areas like Thonglor, they are spread across the city. A key aspect to note in veganism going mainstream is that plant-based stir fry chicken and rice is available in 7-Eleven for 40THB.
The crucial point for Thai consumers to appreciate the alternatives to plant-based meat alternatives was when the CPF entered the market. They offered the market and introduced the “Meat Zero” brand in 2021. They also had a large advertising budget that brought on-board celebrity ambassadors and ushered a list of about ten products in different stores in Sukhumvit region.
Their burger patties and other products are well priced for the Thai market.
Who would have imagined that the meat section in grocery stores will have plant-based meat a few years ago?
A short interview with LET’S PLANT MEAT Ceo, Smith Taweelerdniti on what he thinks is contributing veganism to go from niche To mass in Thailand:
Q: Why do you think there is a rise in vegan cafes in Bangkok after the pandemic and what are the future products we expect from LET’S PLANT MEAT?
“The Pandemic hit Thailand hard”
A: We saw a 10x jump in daily searches for VEGAN and PLANT-BASED MEAT in Thailand recently. This is a good sign for the plant-based meat industry. The pandemic has changed the eating habits of Thai people, and this could be a reason for the increase in vegan restaurants in Bangkok. I can see both retail and food service will continue to grow for healthy and sustainable vegan food products. This is happening globally, and Thailand is adapting quickly, there is a long list of delicious and local vegan products available in Bangkok now.
In our recent product launch, we focused on Thai food which can be easily added to menus which have plant-based dishes. We want to give options to Thai restaurants in Bangkok to offer the best and most delicious plant-based dish options. We have sausages like SAI-UA and NAEM which is basically the plant-based version of the famous food in Chiangmai which is my hometown.
We are incorporating more delicious local Thai herbs and spices into our products to give people the taste of authentic Thai dishes which are plant-based.
Our burger patties have already gained immense popularity and they are being used in different restaurants. It is easy to grill our burger patties at home and enjoy a plant-based meal.
On the other hand, as the pandemic is starting to subside and Thailand has opened up to tourists from other countries, we want to provide more western options like smokey vegan chorizo and Cumberland styled sausages for the travelers who want to eat vegan western dishes. The past two years has been a fun ride for us and we at NITHI FOODS will continue to innovate towards a sustainable and plant-based future.
Plant-Based meat and environmental sustainability:
Thailand could produce a lot of different, good quality vegetables. Increased consciousness towards environmental sustainability post the pandemic is pushing businesses to create plant-based alternatives which are good and beneficial to the local farmers and to the consumer at a reasonable price which is affordable.
Q: Do you think it is important to address plant-based meat along with environmental sustainability and provide an option for the Thai consumer at an affordable price point?
A: I absolutely think plant-based meat and environmental sustainability must go hand in hand. I am a passionate environmentalist myself and want to ensure that all our products are produced with minimum or no harm to the environment.
Let’s Plant Meat team joined the food tech incubator program called Space-F to further sharpen our ideas and accelerate our business plan together with 15 food startup cohorts.
In March 2020, we launched our first Plant-Based Burger Patty at Tesco Lotus in Bangkok and now they are exporting to over seven Asian countries in 2022. I was inspired by BEYOND MEAT and wanted to provide an alternative which is affordable to the Thai consumer.
We use NON-GMO soy and other products which are grown sustainably without harm to the farmers and soil. Our patties are priced at 60 THB compared to 250 THB for the patties which are imported from other countries.
A conversation with Root The Future to understand the rising trend of vegan restaurants in Bangkok
Q: You were at Thaifex 2022, what was your observation from the event?
RTF: ThaiFex this year saw more plant-based brands and products than any previous year, reinforcing the demand and strength of the plant-based community in the region. This is obviously directly related to the growth of vegan restaurants in Bangkok.
The largest number of plant-based brands were entwined within the meat and dairy section itself, which we believe helps to normalize the food-group to people who may see it as an exclusive diet – and would give people a chance to try plant-based food, where they otherwise might not have had the opportunity.
When walking around the entire exhibition, you could clearly see that plant-based food was the focus point. It was interesting to see that there was an extensive section on ‘future-food’ this year, which saw a strong emphasis on emerging plant-based products and planet-friendly food technologies.
Q: You were part of a panel discussion in THAIFEX 2022, could you please tell our readers a little bit about what you discussed?
RTF: There were also a number of talks in the stage area that saw esteemed, expert speakers from all industries. Root The Future was lucky enough to moderate a panel discussion with several industry leaders, discussing the future of food and the role that plant-based food has within the region. We would love to believe that the future is plant-based, and we are hoping to see more vegan restaurants in Bangkok.
This is a list of exclusively vegan restaurants in Bangkok:
A couple of years ago, Veganerie was probably the only vegan restaurant in Bangkok. Today, Veganerie has opened up in more locations in Bangkok and there are many more vegan restaurants across Bangkok offering dishes prepared from plant-based meat and local veggies.
- The Banana Warrior Cafe
- Veggie Chef Ramintra
- Saptha BKK
- Kind Café Ladprao
- Carrots: The Vegan Bistro
- Golden State Vegan
- Let Me Health You
- Canes: Fine-Dine Lab and Restaurant
- Canes: Vegan Casual Dining
- Nature’s Charm Cafe
- So Vegan
- Veganerie Concept
- Earthling Cafe
- Barefood Bangkok
- Broccoli Revolution
- Vegano Bangkok
- Rasayana Raw Food Cafe
- May Veggie Home
- Vegan Crush
- Khun Churn
- Vegan Table Bangkok
- Munchbox by Nidhi
- Kapra Cafe
The above mentioned restaurants offer a variety of dishes on their menu including burgers and pizzas. Some of these restaurants which are dedicated to using only local organic produce. They use fresh, healthy plant-based food using veggies like broccoli and other seasonal vegetables.
There are also many other restaurants opening which serve vegetarian food along with vegan dishes. Vegetarian food does not have any meat but includes dairy and eggs, vegan food does not have meat, dairy or eggs .If you take a walk down soi Sukhumvit, you will find more and more cafes which are offering vegan on their menu now.
Embracing change as we enter a new post pandemic era:
It is obviously too early to say if factory farmed meat will disappear from the food system but there is no denying that the consumers of the post pandemic era are demanding environmental sustainability from businesses and brands.
There is a growing consciousness towards eating healthy and organic.
Since a vegan diet is one of the most sustainable diets for people and the planet, there will definitely be more vegan restaurants opening in Bangkok in the near future.It is important to remember that a fresh,organic diet which is plast-based is the best for health.
We wish you a wonderful dining experience in the vegan restaurants in Bangkok.