Matthew Pearson

VegFest London 2019

VegFest 2019 may be over, but we’re not done picking over its seitan bones just yet. To encourage you to keep the event on your radar for next year, and to get you onboard with some of the inventive, agenda-setting business we met, tried and have consequently privately raved about, we thought we’d give you a little review of the weekend. A public raving to which you are invited. Compostable glow sticks at the ready, read on for...

  • An idea of what to expect (and what not to expect) from VegFest
  • A taste of some of the best street food and vegan food products we tried
  • A smattering of the non-culinary vegan businesses on offer
  • And much more

What VegFest is Good For

VegFest is good for anyone deep into the vegan scene, living their best vegan life. It’s a coming together of vegan businesses great and small, foodie and non-foodie in a ginormous exhibition venue. Set across three floors of the Olympia London, West Kensington, you need hours to explore it properly. You’ve got street food stalls in one area, a huge number of vegan food product makers and artisans handing out tasters, plenty of vegan lifestyle brands competing for your attention and animal welfare groups looking for new members. Talks about all aspects of a vegan lifestyle and separate vegan enterprises, performances by vegan musicians and comics and cooking demonstrations take place across the venue throughout the day. And it lasts two full days towards the end of October. There is no camping. It’s in an exhibition centre in West Kensington.

For Vegan Business People

It’s great for chefs and vegan store owners. Meat free business people. A lot of professional cooks looking for new vegan ingredients to add to their menus were there. VegFest 2019 featured the first UK outing of OmniPork, the plant-based pork substitute that’s soon to be replacing many a disappointing bean burger on many a pub menu. We also loved the chick’n from The Green Butchers. It’s a great event for vegan shop owners too. In many ways, it’s an industry event, a great big meat-free networking do.

For a Vegan Lifestyle

VegFest is also geared towards those looking to make the vegan switch, and those wanting to be ethically-minded across the board, rather than just when it comes to food. There were lots of subscription based businesses at the event, everything from vegan ready meals to vegan pet food and veg boxes. We had a great chat with someone from VeganFitnessMeals about how to make gains with grains. But it’s not just a food festival. It might actually be a little inaccurate to call it one at all. It’s a vegan lifestyle event. It’s the place to come if you want to find extra-curricular (non-food related) vegan products and business, with a real focus on clothing, cosmetics and health products. Dr Bronner’s were there, there was a big focus on environmentally-friendly sanitary products...and clothes-wise they had everything you’d need to make you the meat-free, parachute-panted hippy or straight edge, hardcore animal lover of your parents’ nightmares. In the health department, we thoroughly recommend you take a look at Nourished. They’re a subscription-based vitamin company, who make fruit gum-like vitamins to suit your body’s individual needs. They work out what you require in your diet, based on a number of different factors, and then 3D print (yep, who’s that at the door? It’s THE FUTURE) individual daily vitamins just for you. Made in the UK, sugar-free, plastic-free, vegan and with better absorption rates than other vitamins.

For Vegan Causes

The presence of a number of fighting-the-good-fight charities and protest organisations (Extinction Rebellion and Animal Rebellion, Hunt Saboteurs, Veganuary, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home) make it a good starting point for those wanting to help vegan causes. It’s charmingly, happily and productively old school in that sense. All vegan festivals promote the benefits of veganism and a vegan lifestyle, be they environmental, animal welfare-related or dietary. But depressingly few give visitors ideas on how they can help those causes and promote those benefits beyond the event itself. VegFest does this. There was a climate summit on the Sunday, a wildlife summit and a zone run by Animal Rebellion, a wing of Extinction Rebellion. It’s a place to fill up your ethical toolbox. Get informed, sign up, go forth and vegify.
Matthew Pearson for London Pass

What VegFest is Not

A Party

VegFest is not a party or a knees-up. It’s not even a shindig. If you want a plant-based celebration, head to Vegan Nights (which we wrote about here). It’s not hip, it’s not mood-lit. It’s in an exhibition centre in West Kensington. It closes at 17.00. It is brightly lit, the music and entertainment is...not the main event. Nor is the street food, the hot stalls. There are some big names there—DAPPA looked to be selling out of their dairy-free ice cream, the Fake n’ Kidme pie we had from Simply Vegan was possibly best of the fest standard—but there isn’t a huge amount of choice.
Matthew Pearson for London Pass

The Biggest Vegan FOOD Festival in the World

VegFest is one of the biggest vegan festivals in the world, but it is not one of the biggest vegan food festivals in the world. It is, as we said, an industry event. There are demonstrations, talks, panels. There are stalls selling cruises. Vegan cruises, sure. But CRUISES. You don’t book a cruise at a party. You book a cruise at an industry event, yes. Don’t ever book a cruise at a party. If I ever did, I would wake up in the morning and immediately write a letter to the children I don’t have, apologising for wasting their inheritance in a regrettable show of drunken financial bravado. But VegFest is still ripe to be explored by the general public. If you book early, you can get two tickets for the price of one. Then you and your compadre can head round the Olympia London, mouths open to receive tasters of vegan cheese (Follow Your Heart’s plant-based cheddar won the day in our estimation), vegan chicken and vegan face balm. Should have closed your mouths for the last one. You can find the help you need to be entirely plant-based, 24/7 and 365. You can speak with people who’ve been living the good life since the 60s, listen to vegan bodybuilders talk up tofu for half an hour, sit in a free massage chair for two hours, book a cruise and still be in bed by 18.00.
Matthew Pearson for London Pass

VegFest Details

  • It’s been held at Olympia London since 2013. Odds are it’ll be at this West Kensington exhibition hall again in 2010.
  • Over 300 exhibitors turn up each year, many with one-off promotions just for the fest.
  • There’s a dedicated kids area, with book readings, veg-based entertainment and a kids party.
  • In total, 13,500 people came out for the two day event this year.
  • Find out more about VegFest’s upcoming events here.
So, there's our take on VegFest 2019. If you've got something to add, let us know what you thought of the event in the comments box below.
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