An IKEA employee displays the new IKEA vegetarian meatballs, during a worldwide launch at IKEA Anderlecht, on April 8, 2015. IKEA, who withdrew its signature Swedish meatballs from its markets and cafeterias after one batch was found to contain traces of / EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

Ikea has sold 11.6million Swedish meatballs in the UK

For many people, Ikea is as synonymous with meatballs as it is with flat pack furniture - unless you’re vegetarian.

But from today, the Swedish firm is making its canteen more vegan-friendly, by rolling out veggie balls alongside its crowd-pleasing meatballs.

The veggie balls have already popped up in US stores, and will be introduced to the UK in May.

The Grönsaksbullar only consists of vegetables, making it suitable for both vegetarians and vegans, while containing 100 fewer calories and half the fat that their meaty counterparts, according to the Huffington Post.

Ikea pledges that the balls have a high enough protein level to make it suitable for a main meal, and will contain fresh local ingredients.

Owing to their content, the veggie balls also have a lower carbon footprints than meatballs.

The firm says the introduction of Grönsaksbullar is part of a wider plan to improve its restaurants, which involves the introduction of healthier and more sustainable food, as well new décor and a staff training scheme.

But the newcomers have a lot to live up to, as Ikea estimates it has sold 11.6 billion Swedish meatballs in the UK since it opened in 1987, according to theTelegraph.

Excited vegan and vegetarian Ikea fans have taken to Twitter to praise the store's decision.

Michael La Cour, Managing Director of IKEA Food Services AB, said in a statement: “We will continue to serve delicious food, offering a taste of Sweden at affordable prices, but with increasing focus on the aspects of food that are really important to people; health and sustainability.

“We have high ambitions, and our journey in this direction has just begun. I am proud that we now take the first step and start serving veggie balls”.

Animal rights organisation PETA has given Ikea kudos for its choice. PETA Director Mimi Bekhechi said in statement when the decision was first announced in January: “PETA hears every day from shoppers calling for animal-friendly on-the-go options.

“Vegan snacks spare animals suffering and benefit human health, which earns IKEA a round of applause from PETA.”

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