In the land of milk and honey, Israelis turn vegan

Tue Jul 21, 2015 1:46pm EDT
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By Tova Cohen

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Nana Shrier, owner of the stylish Georgian restaurant Nanuchka in downtown Tel Aviv, shocked Israel's culinary world when she removed all animal-based products from the menu. A year later business is thriving, defying those who predicted its demise.

Nanuchka is part of a growing trend that has transformed Israel's financial center into a haven for meatless cuisine. Some 400 food establishments are certified "vegan friendly", including Domino's Pizza, the first in the global chain to sell vegan pizza topped with non-dairy cheese.

"There is a good crowd for it, a very loyal one," vice president of marketing Ido Fridman said, noting Domino's Israel sold over half a million vegan pizzas in the past year.

Veganism has gained popularity along with the surge in nutrition awareness worldwide. But the rapid growth in Israel, which goes beyond initiatives like "Meatless Mondays", could signal more is in store elsewhere.

Like vegetarians, vegans don't eat meat, but they also eschew animal-based products including eggs, dairy and honey.

Tel Aviv beat out Berlin, New York and Chennai, India as U.S. food website The Daily Meal's top destination for vegan travelers. The website praised the vegan staple falafel, found on many street corners, and cited Nanuchka as having "a fresh take on meat-heavy Eastern European food".

Even the Israeli army has started offering vegan meals on its bases and supplies vegan soldiers with leatherless boots and wool-free berets.

A study prepared for the Globes newspaper and Israel's Channel Two found 5 percent of Israelis identify as vegan and 8 percent as vegetarian while 13 percent are weighing going vegan or vegetarian. In 2010 just 2.6 percent were vegetarian or vegan.   Continued...

Nana Shrier, owner of Georgian restaurant Nanuchka, poses for a photo in her restaurant in Tel Aviv, Israel July 15, 2015. Shrier shocked Israel's culinary world when she removed all animal-based products from the menu. REUTERS/Baz Ratner