The boss of arguably the most celebrated retailer of meat-filled pastries in Britain has decided to go vegan after watching a Netflix documentary.
Mr Whiteside, who has headed up the UK’s largest bakery chain since 2013, said he had recently been convinced to forego sausage rolls in favour of their new vegan counterpart after watching The Gamechangers.
The film, which boasts Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Novak Djokovic and Lewis Hamilton as producers, details misconceptions around the relationship between eating meat and sporting or martial prowess, and how these have been driven by decades of marketing, particularly to men.
While accepting his award in Newcastle, Mr Whiteside said: “If you’d asked me three weeks ago which roll I preferred I would have said the original sausage roll, but I’m now attempting to live on a vegan diet.
“Obviously there are arguments based around animal welfare and the environment, but this was all about the health benefits, and I thought I should give it a go.
“Avoiding meat is easy. The problem is avoiding dairy, avoiding milk and cheese is almost impossible. It would be okay if I had time to cook, but I don’t, so I have to have things that are quick and easy.”
The bakery’s launch of a vegan sausage roll in January stole headlines and even sparked conspiracy theories as one website claimed chief antagonist Piers Morgan had shared the same PR company as the bakery chain, with their public spat dominating the UK’s public discourse for days.
Mr Whiteside added: “We’ve got the award-winning vegan wrap which I have quite frequently, and the vegan sausage roll which I’ll have about once a week, and now we have the sweet choice with the vegan sweet mince pie.”
Mr Whiteside is far from alone in his reaction to the documentary, with many on social media sharing their efforts to pursue a plant-based diet.
The film, which became iTunes’ bestselling documentary on record, tackles the idea that meat in some way implies masculinity, a narrative rarely challenged on-screen.
“I ate a lot of meat,” says Arnold Schwarzenegger. “They show those commercials selling that idea that real men eat meat. But you’ve got to understand that’s marketing – that’s not based on reality.”
But others criticised it for not being impartial enough, or claimed the film was really challenging the detrimental health impacts of junk food, not meat in general.
Mr Whiteside reaffirmed that the bakery chain was looking into creating vegan versions of other goods, following the success of the vegan sausage roll.
There has been speculation that the steak bake could be next, after Greggs' social media team asked customers on World Vegan Day, earlier this month: “What should we vegan next?”
But a Greggs spokesperson told The Independent there was no way it would be in stores by Christmas, pointing out the vegan sausage roll took roughly two years to create.