Top haggis maker rebrands vegetarian version as ‘veggie crumble’ to get round 50-year US ban

One of Scotland’s biggest haggis producers has rebranded its vegetarian version of the dish for sale in the United States as it resumes exports to the country for the first time in almost 50 years.
James MacSween has rebranded their veggie haggis as 'veggie crumble' for export to the US. Picture: Ian GeorgesonJames MacSween has rebranded their veggie haggis as 'veggie crumble' for export to the US. Picture: Ian Georgeson
James MacSween has rebranded their veggie haggis as 'veggie crumble' for export to the US. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Macsween of Edinburgh, which began selling haggis in 1953 from a small butcher’s shop in the Scottish capital, has renamed its vegetarian version “Scottish Veggie Crumble” for US consumers.

The company believes that dropping the word haggis from packaging will make the product more appealing to customers in America, where traditional meat haggis has been banned since 1971.

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It is also hoping to capitalise on the rise in demand for vegetarian and vegan alternatives to traditional meat dishes, which has seen the sales of meat-free haggis soar.

The US chain Fairway Market, which has 15 stores in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, will begin stocking the product from tomorrow ahead of annual Burns Night celebrations.

Owner James Macsween said his father John had invented the first commercially available vegetarian haggis in 1984, removing key ingredients such as sheep’s liver and lung.

He said the new US product was effectively the same as its vegetarian haggis sold in the UK, which has seen 15 per cent growth in sales this year as more people try going meat-free.

“We’ve just taken a recipe that we know sells really well, internationalised it by not calling it haggis and changed the packaging, making it compliant with USA regulations,” he said.

“The popularity of people eating less meat is really starting to take hold in the UK. And the meat-free trend that we’re seeing in the UK is far more established in the United States.”

Mr Macsween said the rebranding of the product was partly due to the long-standing ban on haggis in the US, but also to encourage consumers to eat it all year round rather than just on Burns Night.

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“Even in the UK, people just think haggis should be meat,” he said. “And unless you understand and appreciate haggis, the word haggis still has some negative connotations.

“It’s just one of those food dishes that’s a bit like Marmite, it can polarise people’s opinions. To make it a 52-week-of-the-year food, we decided not to call it haggis.”

The company is also in negotiations with US sales representatives with the aim of having “boots on the ground” in America, so it can capitalise if the ban is lifted in the future.

The US Department of Agriculture prohibits the use of lungs in food, a key haggis ingredient, but exports to Canada resumed in 2017 after Macsween reformulated its recipe to exclude it.

Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said ministers had been “working closely” with US authorities with the aim of having the ban lifted.

“We will continue to work with the relevant authorities and would welcome progress on making haggis available to people living in the US,” he said.