Specialist PR agency Ingredient Communications commissioned market research experts Surveygoo to conduct an online survey of 1,000 consumers (500 each in the UK and U.S.).
Overall, 4% said they were vegan, although this figure was higher in the US (6%) and among 18-24-year olds (13%). A further 4% were vegetarian, with 3% describing themselves as pescatarian.
The survey also suggests that large numbers of consumers are planning major changes to their diets over the coming year. Three in five vegetarians (60%) are considering becoming vegan. This trend was considerably higher in the U.S., where 90% said they were considering veganism, as opposed to 33% in the UK. More than four in ten meat-eaters (42%) intend either to reduce their meat consumption or stop eating meat altogether.
Yet despite vegetarianism and veganism apparently becoming more mainstream, almost half the vegans surveyed (46%) said they were dissatisfied with the choice of suitable food and beverage products available to them. Although vegetarians were more likely to be happy, 23% said they were dissatisfied with product choices.
Richard Clarke, founder & managing director of Ingredient Communications, said: “Our research indicates the scale and pace of the shift towards vegetable-based diets. Whatever the reason for their choices—ethical, environmental or health-related—many consumers expect the food industry to do more to keep up with them. For manufacturers of both finished products and ingredients, it’s clear that there are rewards for putting greater focus on the needs of vegans and vegetarians.”
Interestingly, dissatisfaction with product choice was particularly high in the U.S., where 50% of vegans said they were not happy with the options available to them, versus 36% in the UK. Similarly, American vegetarians were more likely to be dissatisfied with the range of suitable product options (31%) compared to 15% in the UK.
One reason for this could be that American consumers have higher expectations of product availability. “The merger of two related tracks are likely to be contributing to these trends,” said Dr. Mark JS Miller, principal of Kaiviti Consulting. “One is the trend of expected convenience, where I can get what I want when I want it, which has been fueled by the Amazon phenomenon. The other trend is the desire for personalized health choices. Neither trend is likely to abate and so this level of dissatisfaction amongst American vegans and vegetarians is likely to continue until the market is nimble enough to adjust to the demands."
When asked which factors had influenced their decision, 69% of vegans and 64% of vegetarians cited animal welfare. The next most common factor was “concerns about my health,” which was chosen by 48% of vegans and 54% of vegetarians.
Another key finding from the survey was the popularity of new categories, such as pescatarianism. “In the past, there was more a less a binary choice between eating meat or not,” said Neil Cary, managing director of Surveygoo. “Our research suggests high numbers of people are adopting a more nuanced, flexible approach to their diets and lifestyles.”