Today Greggs launch a vegan sausage roll into selected branches, but the announcement came yesterday on social media, accompanied by an excellent and funny video.
And, my word, did their social media team play a blinder, responding to the predictable flurry of tedious detractors with patience, humour and a smile, not to mention the brilliant weary verbal eye-roll directed at the most tiresome of the nation’s professional trolls.
If you haven’t already done so, it’s worth checking out Greggs responses to dissenters — as well as the tweets the Newcastle-based bakers were sent, if you can, where they haven’t been deleted by the remorseful, furious or spineless senders — and check out the #vegansausageroll hashtag too.
What you’ll see, if you do so, is some extraordinary annoyance and frustration. The moaners fell into two broad categories, with the idiots concentrated in the first:
1/ Meat eaters accusing Greggs of pandering to “snowflakey” vegan sensibilities instead of exclusively catering to their traditional and far more important dietary requirements and WHY DO VEGANS WANT TO EAT SOMETHING THAT REMINDS THEM OF MEAT ANYWAY.
2/ Coeliacs and other gluten-avoiding eaters asking for / demanding / ranting about the absence of a GF sausage roll, some with an acute sense of entitlement, and apparently bitter that the so-called lifestyle choice of veganism was being given priority to the usual medical need of GF.
I addressed some of the coeliac vs vegan issues in a post I wrote last year, which I stand by, and won’t rewrite here. But briefly, there is no point in getting upset at food service providers catering for restricted diets of all colours and denominations, even if they are not useful to us as individuals, because it broadens public awareness and choices for all on the ‘free from’ spectrum, and we all — coeliacs, food allergy folk, food intolerance folk, vegans and vegetarians, and their advocates — will get more from the world when we stick together and not try to enforce a pecking order of importance in our community.
What the response to Greggs’ campaign has shown is that we still have some way to go in normalising ‘free from’ in our society and the lack of understanding of those on restricted diets (for whatever reason) persists.
If you’re angry at vegans who are happy at a new high-street choice, you’d do well to ask yourself why other people’s joy infuriates. This sort of attitude threatens people’s rights and safety, and we should continue to advocate for better awareness. We cannot be annoyed at the introduction of vegan or vegetarian choices, unless they jeopardise allergy or coeliac choices … and yes, this is something we should keep an eye on, for instance, if production of an allergy-safe vegan product has to be upscaled to a larger factory to meet new increased demand, sacrificing allergy-friendliness in the process.
And what about Greggs?
I’m afraid previous virtue signalling and unfulfilled promises dating back three years to deliver gluten-free options have not endeared me to them in the slightest, but the priority which has been lost in all the fun and games of the last couple of days is their poor in-store allergy labelling, which is the real issue we should be challenging.
While Pret have been under extreme pressure to improve allergy labelling in the wake of the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, Greggs have gone largely untroubled in this regard, and yet all I saw during a recent visit to my local branch were a few generic allergy notices — considerably poorer than Pret’s on-shelf ’14 allergens’ labelling and upcoming full product labelling.
For a brand of this size, this needs to change. Let’s see what 2019 brings.
NB. The new Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll contains wheat and barley, but no other top 14 allergens as ingredients. See their Allergen and Nutrition page here.