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.
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.
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 US 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.
This compares with an estimated 2 percent of the US and UK populations being vegan.
Georgian-born Shrier was strongly advised not to convert her 14-year-old restaurant to vegan.
workers, accountant, lawyer, financial adviser, friends, even my
psychologist said such a successful restaurant needs to be left alone,”
she said in an interview in Nanuchka’s shady outdoor patio. “But I
understood I have the privilege to influence through the restaurant.”
said turnover is up, with rave dishes including a Georgian dough
stuffed with mushrooms, and spinach and nuts hinkali — stuffed dumplings
served with soy yogurt.
But the well-stocked, popular bar saw a
drop in customers, which Shrier attributed to a “hedonistic crowd that
can’t understand how they can do without meat.”
Omri Paz, head of
the non-profit group Vegan Friendly, has been working with Israeli cafes
and restaurants to offer vegan dishes alongside their usual fare and
estimates about 700 outlets are certified as vegan friendly.
attributed the rise in veganism in part to a lecture on YouTube by
American animal rights activist Gary Yourofsky that has about 1.5
million views in Israel.
“It helps that Israel is a small country where things quickly go viral,” he said.
television has aired several investigations into animal abuse in the
meat and dairy industry. And, Israeli animal rights activists are very
vocal — just last week they chained themselves to the gate of a meat
One of those activists was Tal Gilboa, winner of
last year’s popular “Big Brother” reality show, whose vegan agenda
helped convert thousands, according to Paz.