Just days after writing that being vegan has lost its significance as a moral signifier, instead becoming just another plot point in our mundane everyday lives, we now have all the proof we need.
Today, Greggs – the cheap and cheerful bakery staple of the high street, bastion of a romanticised warm-hearted and working class northern England, all pastry and pies and pleasantness – are launching a vegan sausage roll. Naturally, some people are fuming that a new food item that doesn't contain meat or dairy now exists, and by some people I mean Piers Morgan, who's accused Greggs of being "PC-ravaged clowns", and a man called "Seeker of Truth", who told me my skeleton is brittle and weak when I tweeted my excitement about the new roll-boi.
Anti-vegans should be mad. This is is no Veggie Pret opening, nor a Tesco vegan ready meal range; this is mainstream veganism in action on par with Wetherspoons introducing their vegan menu. This is the British equivalent of American McDonald’s getting that vegan meat burger. This is easy and bland and delicious; this is grab-and-go veganism. It has arrived.
And yesterday it arrived at the VICE UK office in an Apple-style drawstring bag, via the Greggs PR team. Look to no other publication for your review; this is an unboxing and critical analysis of the Greggs vegan sausage roll from a longtime vegan.
Ad Campaign and Marketing: 5/5
Vegans knew the roll was on its way after a leaked internal Greggs email hit Vegan Instagram in late November. It was obvious then that the launch would be prepped for Veganuary, to entice and beguile those ready for a fad.
A surprise drop as soon as journalists were back in work was fitting for a hype product of this magnitude. The mock-Apple branding is, frankly, tongue-in-cheek excellence and the height of self-awareness: the Greggs team knew this would mean big laughs from the neolibs, and also me.
The Look: 5/5
A roll with stylish flair. Adorned with stripes that suggest big cat sensuality and aggressive flavour, this is more tightly latticed than the OG roll, presumably to avoid a worker accidentally confusing a meaty stick for a plant-based one, or vice-versa.
As I tweeted, having seen only the release video, the body resembles a spinal cord – fitting, really, as it is now the backbone of both my diet and of Great British Veganism to come.
Value for Money: 5/5
Considering the classic Greggs sausage roll is 90p, ten pence more for a veganised product in today's market is reasonable. Under modern capitalism, city-dwelling vegans are ready to fork out a small fortune for anything with a "ve" on the label, so they could've easily gone for £1.50 or perhaps even a big round £2.
The accompanying product breakdown says the roll comes with ten "mega bites". I found it to have just seven large bites, but I have a large mouth.
There's an absolutely mad bend on this roll. You can twist it to a 90 degree angle without it breaking or even shattering the pastry skin. The durability and flexibility of fake meat is truly astounding.
Not too much of an actual flaky quality here, though, thanks to differing ingredients. After mucking around with the product, there was little more than a light layer of detritus on the table.
This, I fully welcome. The pastry still cracks into flakes on impact as you bite in, but it's far less messy. If something is too difficult to eat, I can't be bothered. Massive sloppy burgers you can't fit into your mouth? Forget it. A pastry that relieves itself all over you before you've had a chance to eat it? Rubbish! This – ideal.
The rolls lay in their faux-iPhone cases on sheets of tissue. After at least half an hour in transit and 20 minutes while I spoke to the PR, the roll had left only the faintest imprint of grease. That is to say, the tissue was more Shroud of Turin than your mattress protector during a hungover midsummer morning.
The health conscious will praise this, the result of a switch from butter (original roll) to oil (vegan roll). I say: shite. There weren't the same greasy finger-pads you get after holding one, a significant part of the joy. You could have applied make-up with your fingers afterwards, or shaken someone's hand. Disappointing, but I am being fussy here.
Consistency and Texture of Innards: 6/5
Tell me the inside of that roll doesn’t look like the tenderised beige pulp of budget "sausage meat". How does it taste? Similarly, like an assortment of piggish parts that have been pressure-washed off a carcass, the webby casing of arseholes and trotter flesh, which is to say: delicious.
If fake meat doesn't taste like it's been passed through a grinder with a few different species, I don't want to know. Luckily, this has. On the second roll, I even chewed on a tiny hard lump. The commitment to the Greggs experience is such that my teeth bounced on faux-gristle (although this could have been an anomaly).
For the heads: these have been made in collaboration with Quorn. You can taste the familiar pleasing soulless quality of their sausages – how can something that tastes of almost nothing, food for toddlers or an imaginary friend, be so satisfying? – but with the added pepper and light spices you’d expect from a sausage roll.
Overall Comparison to the Original Greggs Sausage Roll: 4.5/5
Let’s face it: these are marginally less greasy and flaky than the real thing. But you’re not having the real thing, are you. Vegan food is the Diet Coke you get used to, and every now and again "for a treat"/when hungover/in a pathetic act of minor self-harm, you have a Red One and remember an alternative existed, once.
That said, no vegan today can be bothered to compromise very much on taste, and here, you don’t have to. I inhaled two of these rolls around the corner from my colleagues because I am both greedy and selfish with food, but also, because they were very good. They didn’t make me feel any less sluggish or sick than is the norm, which I’d imagine a couple of the real ones might (maybe I’m wrong, but I do not care to stand corrected by a Twitter meat bro). Speaking of Red Cokes, I can't think of a better hangover cure than a Coke and one of these. After this success, surely a vegan sausage and bean bake – AKA the greatest Greggs product – a warm flaky pouch of Quorn saus and beans is next.
As the video on a fake iPad that came with the rolls told me over dramatic Game of Thrones-style music, this is the new gen of sausage roll. Embrace the fake. Feel the reduced-flaking. Go out and enjoy a fraudulent sausage.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.