A sausage roll might show us how to save the planet. This may sound like a rather big claim for such a small pastry, but this is the vegan sausage roll I’m talking about. You know the one. The one that triggered Piers Morgan and was custom delivered to journalists in packaging more suited to the latest iPhone than to a pastry costing a quid.
2019 was arguably the year of the vegan. The Greggs vegan sausage roll got the ball rolling in January but its success typified the trend. Veganuary went into overdrive and claims to have inspired over half a million people worldwide to give a meat and animal free month a try.
According to the Vegan Society, there are four times as many full-time vegans in Britain as there were in 2006, and while the total is still quite small, a simple glance at the supermarket shelves will tell you that the number of people interested in trying at least vegan meals is clearly on the rise.
But why did Greggs decide to get in on the act? A staple of the north-east and renowned for its cheap and cheerful sausage rolls and steak bakes, it seems an unlikely home for a vegan revolution, and yet the answer is simple.
There was a profit to be made.
The push for more vegan-friendly products is a boon for capitalists. Between Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and fast fashion, a whole generation are looking to live their lives in a more climate-friendly way and that doesn’t just mean recycling jam jars and patching up old jeans.
People are looking to spend their money in a more ecological way, and capitalism is the perfect system to provide the goods. Greggs is almost the last food business you’d expect to go green but they saw a gap in the market and they grabbed it with both hands.
They saw the demand and – being a good business – they thought they’d see if they could offer that new customer base a product they’d want to buy. Cue a few years of development to see if a vegan alternative could be developed that offered the same taste customers were used to. And boy did it pay off. The vegan sausage roll was so successful that the company will hand out bonuses worth over £7 million to staff at the end of this month, with them following up the product with vegan versions of their donut and steak bake.
Greggs’ success should serve as an inspiration to us all because this is how we can solve the climate crisis. Not by listening to Extinction Rebellion’s preaching telling us to cut down to one flight every seven years, not government-mandated veganism, not banning plastic straws, but by harnessing the power of capitalism to provide products which will reduce our impact on the planet.
The answer to climate change will be found in the mind of an innovator who can make our lives easier, cheaper, tastier and freer. Only by creating products like the vegan sausage roll – which provides an almost identical experience to the meat version but without the damaging effects of animal farming – will customers be able to make the changes they want to make in their lives.
If we stifle the best impulses of capitalism then preventing catastrophic climate change will require draconian restrictions to all our freedoms. Much better to let the market sell us the solutions, steak bakes and all.