Veganism used to be a positively mystifying concept. People could grasp vegetarianism and could readily explain the foods that vegetarians could and could not eat, but vegans were perplexing. What was the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian? Why would a vegan consider it wrong to eat an egg or drink milk? Why do vegans eschew down pillows and leather boots?
Today, veganism is no longer judged to be an eccentric dietary choice. Increased awareness has come from many sources. Celebrities flaunt their veganism, the health benefits of a plant-based diet are well documented, and the campaigns of organizations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have become more established and widespread.
And as a result of that increased awareness we have seen an increased interest in veganism. Exclusively vegan restaurants are becoming much easier to find, even outside of big cities, and more and more restaurants are catering to vegans by offering explicitly vegan menu choices. Even mainstream food markets are setting up vegan grocery sections and with greater variety than ever. Companies producing really good vegan food products are proliferating.
So it comes as no surprise to us that there is a demand for vegan gifts! Manhattan Fruitier has offered a collection of vegan foodie gifts for a number of years now, and because our customers have proven the popularity of these gifts, we are very excited to announce that we recently expanded and updated this category. Check out our entire vegan gift collection.
We have identified some vegan friendly gift ideas for him and for her that will be sure to please your vegan friends and family. We divided our gift ideas into Vegan Gifts to Eat or Drink and Vegan Gifts to Wear and Use.
Vegan Gift Ideas — To Eat or Drink
1. Fresh and Dried Fruit Gifts: There is nothing simpler than sending a gift basket of luscious and beautiful fresh and dried fruit to a vegan colleague, friend or family member. Fruit is an unquestionably vegan food and when artfully arranged in a basket with leaves and flowers, it makes a perfect vegan gift for her or for him.
One caveat about fruit: some vegans will not eat figs. That is because some figs can contain the decomposed bodies of wasps. Figs are pollinated by a very specialized fig wasp and the natural symbiotic relationship between them is used in biology as a perfect example of co-evolution and/or mutualism. Since the figs could not exist without the fig wasp and fig wasps could not survive without the figs, many vegans feel that it is OK to eat a fig. By the way, most commercially produced figs are grown in California and are self-pollinating, so not much need to worry but it’s good to be aware of the potential issue.
2. Vegan Cheese Gifts: Dairy products, whether made from cow, sheep, goat, or camel milk, are not acceptable food for a vegan. Vegans do not eat any meat (including fish), but they also do not eat any animal by-products and that includes milk, eggs and even honey! Vegan cheeses are generally made from nuts such as cashews. There are vegan cheese options available for parmesean, mozzarella, ricotta, cheddar, Monterey Jack and more. Unfortunately, the majority of the store bought brands don’t taste very good. In fact, the more the makers try to produce vegan cheese that looks and tastes like real diary cheese, the worse it is! Vegan cheeses definitely taste different than cheese made from animal dairy, but vegans understand that and aren’t expecting vegan cheeses to taste the same.
We foraged high and low to find the best vegan cheese available and found it in Dr-Cow: a Brooklyn-based husband and wife run business that lovingly makes hand-crafted aged vegan cheeses in a variety of cool flavors that look gorgeous and taste simply divine! This cheese is so special that we decided to design a gift around it. Introducing our new Strictly Vegan Cheese Hamper with three of Dr-Cow’s exceptional cheeses (Cajun, Smoky, and Reishi flavors) with all the natural accompaniments. Bring this unique vegan gift to your next dinner party (vegan or not) and it will be a hit!
Another fun vegan gift to send for any occasion is our “Strictly Vegan Bagel Brunch”. This is an authentic New York-style Sunday brunch complete with old-fashioned water-boiled bagels (made without using egg products to make the tops shiny), a spreadable vegan cream cheese with scallions made by Treeline, capers and an organic blood orange juice.
3. Vegan Snacking Gifts: Sometimes it’s easy to identify a food that is appropriate for a vegan to eat, such as fresh fruit and vegetables that can make a vegan friendly gift. But once you start looking at packaged foods, it becomes a little trickier. Not all packaged food that is vegan is labeled or certified as vegan. That can mean that even though the ingredients are vegan, that food could have been produced in a facility that uses the same equipment to make products that contain dairy or meat or their by-products, such as casein and whey. And just because a snack is made from a plant source, such as a potato in a potato chip, there can be additives or preservatives that are not kosher for a vegan (sorry, couldn’t help myself!) such as lecithin and gelatin. There are several really good websites that have lists of food additives that may not be vegan. Check out veggieglobel.com, vegan.org and/or peta.org if you are interested in learning more.
At Manhattan Fruitier, we make it easy for you to find certified 100% vegan gifts to send. We offer a variety of fun vegan snacking gifts perfect for him or her, and large or small parties. Think falafel chips with fresco salsa, popcorn, roasted chick pea snacks, peanuts in the shell and organic maple-glazed nuts — all vegan and all delicious! One of our premiere vegan snacking gifts is shown below. And it’s gluten free as well. Sure to delight!
4. Vegan Chocolate and Sweet Gifts: The good news for vegans is that yes, you CAN eat chocolate, provided, it’s not milk chocolate of course! Do not be deceived by the ingredient “cocoa butter” from which chocolate is made. Even though it has the word “butter” in it, cocoa butter does not contain any dairy. Cocoa butter, along with cocoa powder, is extracted directly from the cocoa bean: cocoa butter, a fat, is first squeezed out of the cocoa bean and then cocoa powder is made by pressing together the remaining substances.
However, do be cautious about the sugar in the chocolate. Dark chocolate contains varying amounts of sugar: the darker the chocolate (i.e. 75%), the less the sugar (i.e. 25%). Although sugar itself is not animal-based, the bleaching or refining process may be contaminated with animal bone char. Unless the sugar is specified to be raw or unrefined, or the chocolate is specifically labeled with vegan certification, it will be hard to know.
Vegans can be more or less strict about consuming small amounts of refined sugars. If you are sending a chocolate gift to a vegan, and you are not sure of his or her position, you will want to err on the side of caution.
Our new “Strictly Vegan Deluxe” gift features the most delectable vegan chocolates made by Rawclates in Brooklyn, NY. Using only raw and organic ingredients, Rawclates makers create smooth and creamy chocolates that are as nutritious as they are delicious! We have found a new love in these chocolates. This gift also includes our famous “Choc-A-Bloc” cookies baked by Berenice Hurtado at our beloved Sweet Leaf Bakery in Long Island City that are made especially for us. These over-sized cookies are loaded with vegan certified coconut flakes, dark chocolate chips, almonds, banana and peanut butter. Rich and moist and a veritable feast for the taste buds. You can’t get these blockbuster cookies anywhere else!
5. Vegan Beer and Wine Gifts: Bringing beer or wine to a dinner party is customary, and the same is true when the dinner menu will be vegan. However, it may be a little harder to find a vegan beer or wine. Animal by-products, such as dairy and honey, can be added directly into beer, wine or spirits (think Bailey’s Irish Cream or Dogfish Head Brown Honey Rum). That can be fairly easy to identify. But breweries, winemakers and distilleries can also add things during processing and filtration that are much harder to detect such as casein (from milk proteins), isinglass (from fish swim bladders), albumen (from egg whites), sea shells (from mollusks) or gelatin (from bone).
Don’t make the assumption that a wine is vegan if it’s organic! Organic wine production processes do not necessarily exclude using animal by-products. Kosher wines are a good bet to be vegan, unless they include honey (like Mead or Honey Wine).
The best way to be sure that a beer or wine is vegan, is to go to a website that specializes in checking: barnivore.com, urbantastebud.com, and vegan.com are some good options. Bringing a vegan gift of beer or wine will be welcomed and the extra effort you put in to insure that the gift is vegan will be greatly appreciated by your hosts.
Vegan Gift Ideas — To Wear and Use
People who are vegan are often committed to more than just eating a vegan diet. Veganism can be a way of living. Being conscious of avoiding foods that come from animals lends itself to being conscious of avoiding products that either come from animals (such as leather or down) or contain animal by-products (such as glycerides derived from animal fat) or use animal testing during development (such as many cosmetics and skin care products). So when considering a gift to wear or use for a vegan, whether for her or him, you will want to be aware of the materials and substances used to make the product.
1. Belts, Wallets, Handbags or Satchels: Leather is the most common material used to make these items. However, there are a growing number of alternative materials that you can find if you are searching for a vegan friendly gift for him or for her. Called “pleather” in the old days, today the term is “vegan leather” — which sounds much more appealing, doesn’t it? Vegan leather can be made from cork (or even pineapple leaves!!) but usually it is made out of petroleum-based products such as polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which may meet animal cruelty free standards but is certainly not eco-friendly. Something to consider. But there are also other materials that are used to make belts, wallets, handbags and satchels including re-cycled rubber, metal, cork, canvas and other cloth, nylon or bamboo. Check out the website theminimalistvegan.com for sustainable vegan substitutes. MattandNat.com has some really nice designs and always endeavor to use materials other than PVC.
2. Cosmetics, Skin Care and Bath Products: Cosmetics and skin care products are notorious for employing animal testing during development. In fact, many of the very recognizable make-up and skin care brands still are not completely animal cruelty free such as Avon, Cover Girl, Clinique, Maybelline, and Revlon. Happily, there are a multitude of new companies that have dedicated themselves to designing products without cruelty to any animal.
Unfortunately, if you are looking for a gift for a vegan, products that are designated as: cruelty free, organic, non-toxic, 100% natural, botanical or vegetarian (which of course is commendable) does not necessarily mean they are vegan! Many companies use ingredients that are animal by-products, or do not specify whether an ingredient that could potentially be from an animal source is animal free or not. Some good examples of this are glycerin, which can be made from either animal fat or vegetable oil; and “natural flavors” which can be animal-, vegetable- or mineral-derived. If not specified, you can assume that it is not vegan.
So what is one to do?? Well, there are several websites that list non-vegan ingredients to avoid, and vegan ingredients to look for. Veganproducts.org has a very comprehensive list. I also like cruelfreekitty.com — very recently updated — for brands that do not use animal testing. The brand OCC Makeup (which stands for Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics) is one of the only companies I could find that is 100% vegan and cruelty-free. Note that there are also some companies that have 100% vegan sections such as Kat von D Beauty and The Body Shop.
3. Clothes or Jewelry: There are certain fabrics that vegans may choose to shun including the obvious: leather, silk, wool, alpaca, suede, mohair, cashmere and camelhair. But fabrics such as velvet, gabardine, satin, crepe de Chine, organza and felt may not be so blatantly non-vegan. Any synthetic fabric is probably vegan friendly, but for more natural options think cotton, bamboo, linen and denim if you are picking out a gift of clothing or other fabric article for the vegan home. There are quite a few websites focusing on vegan lifestyle and fashion such as the mega peta.org and the funky januarythreads.com. There you can find exhaustive lists of non-vegan and vegan textiles.
Jewelry makes a great vegan gift for him or her. Just steer clear of jewelry with natural pearls! And if pearls are just what you want, there are plenty of natural-looking synthetic varieties available.
4. Perfumes or Colognes: As with cosmetics, skin care and body and bath products, many perfumes and colognes contain ingredients that come from animals. Examples include musk (from deer, the African civet cat, beaver), waste products from the digestive system such as ambergris (from slaughtered sperm whales), or honey. Typically, these ingredients are not listed individually but rather are subsumed under the term “fragrance”. So even if you try to read the label, you won’t know for sure what’s inside.
In addition, many companies continue to use animal testing. Otherwise animal cruelty-free perfumers often state that they do not test on animals “except as required by law”. Apparently, if you want to reach the huge China market, and most brands do, it is mandatory that perfumes and colognes are animal tested.
If you want to give perfume or cologne as a vegan gift, certainly avoid the perfume counters at the department store and steer clear of the major designer brands. The best way to find vegan fragrances is to go to a company that is advertised as vegan. Crueltyfreekitty.com has an updated list of companies that don’t test on animals and in that group there are several that are also 100% vegan including Auphorie, Pacifica, Tsi-La and Vered Organic Botanicals.
5. Treats and Products for Pets: While some of the strictest vegans may chose not to own pets, many vegan households include animal companions. One doesn’t automatically think of bringing a vegan gift to a friend for their pet, but it can be a very fun and thoughtful gift for a vegan friendly family.
Whether a vegan household chooses to feed a vegan diet to their pets will be a very personal decision. There is some controversy over whether cats, who are carnivores by nature, can thrive on a vegan diet. Dogs on the other hand, who are omnivores by nature, can do very well. But you may well not know about the diets of your vegan friend’s pets! Fortunately, there are a wide variety of vegan treats available that both dogs and cats will love, whether their main diets are vegan or not. Assembling a collection of vegan animal treat bags makes a very nice gift to bring to vegan friends. As a pet owner, I know that there can never be enough treats in the house!
And if you don’t want to bring a food-related pet gift, consider gifts of toys and blankets, collars and leashes made with hemp and other organic and natural fibers. Purrfectplay.com even offers gift boxes and baskets for dogs and cats! Now that’s a unique vegan gift that will not be soon forgotten!
Gifting for vegans (even when you aren’t a vegan yourself) isn’t something to be anxious about, especially if you are mindful. There are certainly many, many vegan foods and non-food items that are not specifically labeled as such. But when in doubt, look for the certified vegan logo by vegan.org on the packaging.