From Buddhist canteens to KFC's green nuggets, if you haven't heard of the former, you would have undoubtedly seen the latter. And if not, how about Starbucks' Beyond Meat pastas, salads or wraps? The rise of Oatly, the alternative milk brand, or Z-rou, the alternative meat brand from Shanghai? It's not speculation anymore. It is a fact: Veganism has been carving its own presence in China and the market is growing.
The journey of Carrie Davies in Hangzhou has been nothing short of representative of that: carving her way to build an entire community of vegans and vegetarians in the city.
Carrie Davies is a Canadian freelance communications and operations consultant who has been in Hangzhou for five years. Most people in Hangzhou would know her as the mother of the Vegan and Vegetarian community in the city. A well-deserved title, if you ask me. "Back in Canada, a lot of people are vegans. Everyone is pretty supportive so it is not that hard to be vegan there". When she arrived in Hangzhou, however, it was quite different.
Prior to Hangzhou, Carrie spent a few years in Taipei, which is known as one of Asia's top destinations for vegans, where Carrie was surrounded by Buddhists and people who enjoyed vegan food. The city, having its big vegan culture, has left an important mark on Carrie's life. She'd meet up for meditation groups and then have vegan food. She was surrounded by a community that, though wasn't specifically a vegan community, perfectly suited vegan culture.
Upon her arrival in Hangzhou, it was in search of other vegan fellows and more vegan restaurants that she ended up building the HZ Vegetarian & Vegan group.
The meet-ups made the group grow: People invited their friends, people kept coming to the events. Within a year, the group reached 500 people.
Carrie would host different kinds of meet-ups. She is dedicated to not making them "just about eating" so everyone feels more comfortable. "I always try to combine food with some scenery and some movement", she explains. During some events, they would have a walk before having a meal, or she'd host a potluck during which people would introduce what they have made and the story behind it.
The diversity of the community is one of its pride as well: it brings together people from more than 40 countries with different backgrounds. Some of them would make their own vegan products, from hand cream to baked goods. It has become a platform for people to share what they do, as well as their discoveries.
As there are fewer and fewer events due to the COVID-19 measures, Carrie maintains the flow of information in the group where its members would ask questions and get answers. They would also share recommendations there.
Looking forward, Carrie is working on a new project at the moment that combines fitness and vegan culture. If her success in building the community by herself tells us anything, it's that we can be sure that her next project would definitely be something we won't want to miss.