Wimbledon is synonymous with strawberries and cream but this year the prestigious tennis tournament is serving up vegan cream in response to changing British tastes. The All England Club is dishing up lashings of the alternative topping, as well as beetroot quinoa burgers, as ever-increasing numbers of people bring vegan options into their diet.
"We've had a very large focus this year on improving our vegan plant-based offer," Anthony Davies, Wimbledon's head of food and drink, said Friday. "Across the UK in the last 12 months, the British public and their approach to eating has changed quite significantly.
"There's been a huge increase in the amount of flexitarianism and therefore we needed to make sure that we improved our offer to match people's expectations." Figures for the take-up of vegan cream will only emerge after the championships, but Davies said vegans had been delighted with the offering.
"They have been very complimentary that we are giving them the chance, for the first time, to enjoy our iconic dish," he said.
Day of indulgence
Vegan options have also been introduced at all outlets across the 42-acre (17-hectare) grounds, which play host to around 40,000 tennis fans each day. Barbecued jackfruit burgers are proving popular at the grill, while the beetroot quinoa burger is also selling well, said Davies.
Wimbledon bills itself as Europe's largest annual catering event and has tried to get its public eateries serving more restaurant-style food. Katsu curry is proving a "flyaway success" from the new offerings, said Davies.
Other world dishes available include Thai noodle stir-fry, Jamaican ital stew and Mexican burritos. Championships attendees seem to like splashing out on luxury food and drink, with play being halted in one match Friday due to popping champagne corks landing on a court.
"Wimbledon guests come for a day of indulgence and they like to enjoy themselves while they're with us," said Davies. They munched through a record 38 tonnes of strawberries last year, which have been supplied by the same farm in Kent, southeast England, for two decades.
As for the players, they tend to stick to their regular diet habits, preferring pasta and sushi to other options. Sometimes players make odd food requests, which the club will try to meet, so long as it has the ingredients and the ability.
Leftover strawberry jam
Britain is meant to leave the European Union on October 31 and presently cannot agree a divorce deal with Brussels. However, Wimbledon claims it would not make a difference to their food supply chains if Britain leaves without a deal.
"We certainly aren't worried, at this stage, of any impact to us from a Brexit situation. The majority of our ingredients come from within the UK," said Davies. Each day throughout the two-week tournament, any surplus prepared food goes to the City Harvest charity to be distributed to the needy. Meanwhile any leftover strawberries at the end of the championships are turned into jam, which is used at the tennis clubhouse throughout the rest of the year.
Wimbledon by numbers
- Wimbledon food and drink figures (2018):
- 259,225 cups of tea and coffee
- 273,603 glasses of Pimm's
- 190,000 portions of strawberries
- 111,250 scones
- 19,104 portions of fish and chips
- 18,843 bottles of champagne
- 9,998 litres of cream
- 2,556 kilogrammes of bananas for the players
- 338 chefs
- 56 kitchens
- 28 restaurants