After years of whipping up large vegan meals for an ashram in the mountains outside Rio de Janeiro, Luiza de Marilac Tavares found her life upended and herself out of a job when the pandemic forced the center to shut down.
She started cooking from home, hoping to make ends meet by taking orders from people she knew. Instead, orders for her exquisite fare soared. With a little Instagram marketing, she had inadvertently tapped into Brazil’s booming demand for plant-based food.
The country, which is the world’s largest beef exporter, has seen a dramatic shift toward plant-based diets. The number of self-declared vegetarians in Brazil has nearly doubled over a six-year period, according to a poll by the research firm Ibope; 30 million people, or 14% of Brazilians, reported being vegetarian or vegan in 2018.
Tavares, a Hare Krishna who describes cooking as a sacred act that brings her closer to God, said, “There is a shift of consciousness underway.”
But the surge in demand extends well beyond the namaste set.