THIS month thousands of people across Britain will have taken the pledge to take animal products off their plate, choosing to instead adopt a plant-based diet in honour of Veganuary.

The movement, which began in 2014, describes itself as “encouraging people and businesses alike to move to a plant-based diet as a way of protecting the environment, preventing animal suffering and improving the health of millions of people.”

Veganuary and veganism has even attracted the attention of stars such as Beyoncé, Woody Harrelson, Jennifer Lopez and Russell Brand to name a few, some of whom have chosen to adopt a permanent vegan diet.

But how has the Tyne Valley’s resident vegetarian and vegan cafe Hextol Tans, on St Mary’s Chare in Hexham, benefited from the rise in plant-based palates?

“Operating as a mostly vegetarian cafe, we have definitely seen a rise in customers coming in asking for vegan options in recent times,” said Bruce Howorth, chief executive of the Hextol Foundation charity which runs the cafe. The charity provides working opportunities for people with learning disabilities or mental health conditions.

“We’ve now made sure to have a regular selection on the menu. We decided to keep the cafe strictly vegetarian when we took over because we felt it was a unique selling point to Tyne Valley and Hexham.

“There’s been a noticeable increase, in tourists especially, looking for vegetarian and vegan eateries, so much so that there have been websites created specifically to help people locate them easily. We’re on one or two of those and we’ve found it has helped drive a lot of business to us so far.

“The increase in interest around meat-free diets has certainly benefited us.”

Leading the team of chefs at Hexol Tans is catering manager Claire Smith, who is in charge of creating the menu.

Although she hasn’t adopted a plant-based diet herself, Claire is passionate about vegetarian food and describes herself as a fan.

“We aren’t limited by not serving meat,” she said. “We can still get just as creative in the kitchen, and create unique dishes made from scratch.

“There’s been times where our customers have actually recommended recipes which we have then adopted, and all the team bounce ideas off of each other.”

Some of the most popular items on the menu include vegan butternut squash curry packed with green beans chick peas and made with a coconut base; vegan sweet potato and red pepper soup and a rotating range of home-made cakes, including a vegan lemon loaf cake and chocolate cake.

“We don’t tend to use meat-free alternatives in our dishes or try to imitate meat,” said Bruce.

“Instead the chef team focus on the vegetables and flavours, which I think is what our customers enjoy.

“Many are not strictly vegetarian or vegan themselves. They just appreciate the friendly atmosphere and delicious home-cooked food.”