NBC

Vegan As the New Organic

Some people go vegan for their health, others for ethics, and then there's the most common reason around the world: religion. Regardless of why, there's been a dramatic increase in the number of people eating, or at least sampling, a plant based diet. The increase is now affecting what’s available in the marketplace.

It's something you may have already noticed in the grocery store, more and more options for vegans. Aside from Almond Milk and some Veggie Burgers patties, there are now entire sections dedicated to meat free products.

Now popular food chains are getting in on the action.

At Domino's Pizza, they have a vegan pie. It's thin crust, with extra veggies instead of cheese. Overseas they even have vegan mozzarella.

At restaurant chain Denny's, they let you build your own burger. Options include a “double,” with toppings like caramelized onions, sautéed mushroom and fresh avocado.

And fast food giant Taco Bell has quietly become one of the most vegan friendly fast food options out there. If you’re looking for a great vegan meal there, ask for the 7-layer burrito fresco style and a side of cinnamon twists.

If you think any of that food sounds good, you're not alone. It's one of the reasons a plant based diet is forecasted to be a food revolution like eating organic.

From their tiny home office in Frisco, Lisa and Ryan Manchee have the makings of a vegan empire. On a typical day they're filling, packaging, and shipping about 200 plant based products. Their online groceries include meatless jerky, brownies, chicken flavored seasoning, and soy curls that act as a meat substitute.

The Manchees bought, then expanded their online business, called “Plant Based Grocery” about four months ago. They also sell their products at pop ups and fairs. They tell NBC 5 sales have been so strong they're already thinking about a brick and mortar shop. Based on customer reviews, they've realized at least half of their shoppers aren't actually vegan.

“I think people that are plant-based curious is probably the majority of people. They're just kind of tip-toeing their way into plant-based eating. What we offer is a really good bridge that people realize they don't have to give up on the flavors that they're used to,” said Lisa Manchee.

Education is also fueling vegan curiosity. In January, famed director James Cameron produced a documentary called “The Game Changers.” It’s about elite athletes like Arnold Schwarzenegger debunking the myth that meat is a necessary protein to build muscle, and give you energy.

Chef Troy Gardner says the other myth that's being debunked is that vegan food is weird or that it tastes bad. His current menu at V Modern Eats at Trinity Groves includes lightly battered and deep fried mushroom, to mimic the chicken in General Tso's chicken. He also freezes coconut milk with liquid nitrogen for his version of ice cream. His dishes are so decadent, friends are bringing in their other non-vegan friends just to try it. We watched as one sampled a towering plate of nachos and said, “it's of the best chili I've had—promise!”

According to Chef Gardner,” people perceive the typical vegan meal as being a plate full of vegetables and tofu. So many dishes, especially Italian pasta dishes are already inherently vegan. Therein lies “The Problem”- is the label. If you don't label it vegan- it's not vegan, it just a pasta.”

Gardner says the best comparison for the vegan evolution is ethnic food. He says before the 70s and 80s, no one was regularly ordering Chinese or Greek food. Now they are both mainstream.

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