When I became vegan in 2007, I really longed for some sort of cheese substitution. After reading about this product called Daiya on food blogs over and over again and hearing about its "amazingness", I really, really wanted to try it. I searched online and came across the recently closed vegan shop who not only sold it in Canada, but shipped it to anywhere in the country. I ordered 5 lbs of the stuff (luckily it can be frozen) and had it shipped with ice packs to Nova Scotia (where I was living at the time); the total delivery cost somewhere between $60 and $80. Yikes.
I now find this story hilarious. That "brand new" cheese-product that I died to try, Daiya, is now sold at my local convenience store. No joke. For about $5. I can't believe I once had to have it shipped from across the country and pay an exorbitant price in order to taste it. And now, even though it is super accessible, I don't even eat it anymore. Funny that.
Now, I was never a vegan "veteran", but apparently I still started my vegan journey at a time when it wasn't all that well-known or popular. I can't imagine how vegans functioned in the eighties or nineties A time when the only way you could get tofu was to find an Asian grocery store I'm sure. I bet these vegans were a heck of a lot healthier though; they didn't fill up on all the junky "fake" foods that now exist.
While some vegans cried out at the closure of this shop, I think it was a positive development. Does the closure of a large vegan food vendor mean that the diet is fading away? That fewer people are vegan? Not necessarily.
I think that the shop's closing is positive because it means that vegans (and those who can't eat eggs, dairy, certain forms of meat, Celiacs, follow restricted diets, etc) no longer have to order fake foods from thousands of miles away and pay ridiculous fees for said foods. They don't have to search online for special treats because they are now offered at Starbucks, Second Cup, Loblaws, Metro, on airplanes, and in convenience stores.
With the rise of food intolerances and allergies, big box stores and large food chains are taking notice and making non-allergenic foods available to their customers (obviously they are doing it for profit reasons as allergen-friendly food is a growing market, but whatever).
The three-aisle convenience store by my house sells almond milk, tofu dogs, and gluten-free flour (to name only a few special-diet foods, they sell many other awesome products). And this isn't so just because I live in the big city of Toronto. When I visited relatives over Xmas, who live in a very rural town, I still managed to find Daiya, coconut milk yogurt, and even a whole shelf devoted to Udi's gluten-free breads in the bakery section of their small grocery store.
A whole shelf devoted to Udi's gluten-free breads, muffins, and more.
While I am very sad for the owners of the vegan shop and worried for small business owners everywhere who have to compete with big corporations, I still like to think that the closure of niche food boutiques like this vegan one is positive. I think it is a sign that it is becoming easier to be vegan and easier to follow a diet that is dairy-free, egg-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, etc).
Goodbye niche food boutiques, hello more accommodating grocery stores!