Since the beginning of this academic year, students and staff could get a discounted vegan meal at Vitam cafeterias on campus. The plant-based meal had a cost of 2.62 euro, a 50 percent reduction from the regular 5.25 euro for standard hot meals.

The discounted meals were made possible by a subsidy from Erasmus University and planned to last until 1 December. According to the Erasmus Sustainability Hub, the deal ensured budget-friendly meals for students and more sustainable food on campus. That’s why the student organisation launched a petition in November requesting an indefinite extension of the vegan meal deals, reaching over 1,500 signatures.

Eight-fold sales

During the three months of the discount campaign, Vitam reportedly sold over 20,000 plant-based meals. That is eight times as much as in the same period last year, with only 2,525 plant-based meals. Interestingly, the sales of non-vegan meals remained relatively stable between these two periods, with only a slight decrease of 143 meals in the 2023 period.

As a result of this sharp growth in plant-based meal sales, Vitam, the company in charge of the Tinbergen and Mandeville cafeterias, will now continue the vegan deals at an increased rate of 3.95 euro — still a 25 percent discount from the 5.25 euro for standard hot meals.


Michel Flaton, Vitam’s general manager at EUR, calls the subsidy a ‘win-win situation’. “Not just for the plant-based goals of the EUR. Because of the promotion, more people got to know about us, who would then also buy something else as an add on to their vegan meal.” However, he reveals that there are ‘no demographic figures’ behind these numbers and thus, it is not possible to know whether or how many of these new customers actually shifted their eating habits from meat-based to plant-based.

Similarly, beyond monetary gains, the tangible sustainability impact of this promotion is currently unknown. This impact involves its potential contribution to reducing the ‘university’s carbon footprint’, as it was promoted in an initial press release by the university at the start of the campaign. Further details are expected to be outlined in an upcoming report by EUR.

'Still too expensive'

Meanwhile, the Sustainability Hub is pushing for more. “3.95 euro is still too much”, says Jakob Bertram, the marketing manager at the Hub. “If people stop buying the vegan meal deal and Vitam sees a sharp decrease in sales, they could consider lowering the price a bit, to tap into that huge market of students who are usually not eating at the cafeterias because they cannot afford it.”

Flaton is open to making similar promotions in the future for other items, but he points out that meat-based meal prices cannot be reduced, as it wouldn’t align with EUR’s current sustainability policy of not promoting meat. He also considers the 25 percent reduction already as a ‘big step’. “We could only reduce the costs to 2.62 because of the subsidy by the EUR. We are still a commercial business, so we need to keep our targets.”

Vitam will still monitor fluctuations in sales for the vegan meals until 22 December, the final day before it closes its doors for the winter break. Until further notice, this 25 percent adjustment is set to remain running indefinitely.

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