Veganism no longer feels like a niche choice: plant-based living is becoming more visible. You can see this growth on social media, but also on the high street too, with more shops and restaurant catering to a growing vegan audience. Here’s our pick of 10 key stats that prove veganism is only set to get bigger.
According to Manjunath Reddy, a lead analyst for food research at Technavio: “Veganism is gaining traction in the global market as a style of living and philosophy.
“People are increasingly adopting vegan diets because of the ethical concern toward animals and for a better environment. Morevover, people perceive a vegan diet to be healthy and prefer consuming dairy alternatives such as tofu.”
The internet is the first stop for many when it comes to research, and data released by Google Trends shows a huge leap in the number of UK searches for ‘vegan’ between 2015 and 2016 (it’s too early to look at commensurate data for 2017).
This spike follows a trend: 2015 showed a 32 per cent increase in searches from 2014 in the UK - and this upward trend is evident in the US and Australia too.
Stats released at the end of 2016 showed an enormous jump in vegan foods sales – according to online retailer ocado.com.
The staggering 1,500 per cent increase was put down to the number of people following a plant-based diet in GB (over half a million) as well as the burgeoning ‘flexitarian’ trend.
Jacques Thudichum, Buying Manager – chilled prepared foods at Ocado, says: “Consumer appetite for vegan-friendly foods in the UK is showing no sign of slowing down, as ‘flexitarianism’ emerges as the key trend of the moment. We’ve listened to our customers and have hugely expanded our vegan selection this year, adding new and exciting products each week to become one of our strongest categories.”
As evidence that the burgeoning plant milk industry is starting to worry the dairy sector, last year a letter was sent to America's Food and Drug Administration.
Signed by 33 congressmen, mainly from large milk-producing states, the letter said: “We request that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) exercise its legal authority to investigate and take appropriate action against the manufacturers of these misbranded products.”
The writers said they believe plant milk manufacturers are misleading consumers into thinking their products are of animal origin - many vegan commentators disagreed, saying consumers know what they are buying.
It doesn’t sound like a match made in heaven, but at the end of last year, America’s biggest meat processor acquired stake in a plant-based meat alternative company Beyond Meat.
The fact that a traditional animal protein company is looking to diversify its portfolio suggests that major industry players know which way the market is heading.
It was a controversial move for some vegans, who felt that Beyond Meat was selling out, but founder Ethan Brown said: “I like to think that our nascent relationship is a hopeful sign. A sign that we may be moving beyond Oprah v. Cattlemen and toward productive collaboration that expands consumer choice.”
It’s not just the food sector that’s seeing massive growth when it comes to consumers choosing to eschew animal products – fashion is also feeling the force of the growing vegan movement.
A report by Grand View Research puts the growing footwear sector in countries with emerging markets (including China and Brazil) at the forefront of this growth – alongside developments in animal-free leather technology, and the lower cost of these fabrics.
The report says: "The price of a faux leather footwear is three times cheaper than footwear made up from animal hide, which enables large volume purchases, particularly from middle income class groups. Also these foot wears have long durability and are offered in several designs."
In a clear indication that customer demand is getting through to shop bosses, supermarket Sainsbury’s has doubled the number of dairy-free milks it offers, with a massive 300 stores starting to roll out dedicated non-dairy bays with milks, yoghurts and other drinks.
In a bid to become ‘a real destination shop for customers looking to replace regular milk with non-dairy alternatives’, the shop has introduced lines from Califa Farms and Plenish as well as expanded its Alpro offering in these 300 stores.
The new initiative follows category growth of 11.5 per cent in the store over the past year.
It’s not easy to provide exact stats for how many vegans there are in the US, but there are a number of polls which have tried to do just that.
The most expansive sampling of Americans – polling over 11,000 adults - suggests around 1.6 million people over 17 are currently opting to leave animal products off their plates and out of their lives.
A vegan food delivery service set up in 2016 is looking to take mainstream food retailers by storm. allplants, founded by brothers Alex Petrides and JP recently received the huge sum from Felix Capital (which has never invested in a plant-based business before).
Co-founder Alex Petrides says: “We believe that by 2030, most people will be mainly vegan - not hippies or activists, just normal, casual and vegan. The plant-based food scene is growing by the day…It isn’t a fad. It’s a social movement.”
Veganuary – a charity which encourages people to try veganism for the month of January – was launched in 2014.
In just a few short years, the impact this organisation has made is amazing – and a testament to the growing interest in plant-based living.
The initiative had 3,300 participants in its first year (2014), with 12,800 in 2015 and 23,000 in 2016. With organisers expecting to see this growth continue, 2018 could easily see over 100,000 people taking part.
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