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Head of Greggs who turn to veganism believes in health benefits | Food

The chief executive of the Greggs bakery chain – which sells thousands of meat pasties every week – tries veganism after seeing a documentary about health benefits.

"If you asked me three weeks ago which kind of bread I like I would say authentic sausage rolls, but now I try to live a vegan diet," Roger Whiteside said.

Whiteside, 61, stopped eating meat and dairy products three weeks ago, and talked about how Greggs – who owns bakeries and cafes throughout the UK – worked to develop the vegan version of several other products after the success of sausage rolls without meat.

"I was compelled to watch a movie on Netflix titled The Game Changers. I think, 'this is interesting', "he said.

Game Changers mapped the growing popularity of the plant-based diet among current and former elite athletes such as Lewis Hamilton, Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger because of health benefits and concerns about deforestation.

"Obviously there are arguments based on animal welfare and the environment, but this is all about health benefits and I think I should try it," Whiteside said.

Speaking after receiving this year's North East Business Business of the Year award on Friday, he said: "Avoiding meat is easy. The problem is avoiding milk, avoiding milk and cheese is almost impossible. It doesn't matter if I have time to cook, but I don't, so I need to have things that are quick and easy. "

"We get the award-winning vegan wrapper that I have quite often and the vegan sausage rolls I have once a week, and now we have a sweet choice with vegan sweet minced pie," he said.

More than half a million adults in the UK are believed to be vegans, and last year more vegan products were launched than in any other country after the demand for meat-free food grew by almost 1,000%.

A plant-focused diet has been hailed by scientists as having the capacity to change the threatened future of the earth – potentially preventing millions of deaths a year and containing a climate crisis.

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