Veganism continues to climb among consumers who also are early adopters and brand loyal

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Veganism continues to climb among early adopters brand loyal consumers

Related tags Veganism Vegetarianism

Vegetarian and vegan diets – actively recast in recent years by stakeholders as ‘plant-based’ in a bid to shake off negative baggage – are quickly gaining traction among America’s youngest consumers and are predicted to become a breakout trend in 2018, according to industry experts and consumer research.

Plant-based diets, along with clean-eating and ketogenic, are predicted to be “in for 2018,”​ by a survey of more than 2,050 registered dietitians conducted by Pollock Communications. The report, “What’s Trending in Nutrition,”​ explains that the diets are a natural transition from consumers move in 2012 toward “simple ingredients”​ and a greater focus on “plants.”

Similarly, Baum+Whitman International Restaurant Consultants say in their 2018 Food & Beverage Forecast​ that “’plant-based’ is the new organic,”​ and predict that the “the profound consumer shift to ‘plant-based’ foods,”​ will go mainstream this year.

This is based on Mintel data that estimates 31% of Americans practice meat-free days and shows a 25% increase in vegetarian claims and 257% rise in vegan claims on new food and beverage products launched in grocery stores between 2012 and 2016.

Baum+Whitman also note that Google trend mappers show a 90% increase in vegan searches – which consumer research firm CivicScience ​ points out may illustrate increased awareness and interest, but does not correlate to a similar increase in strict adherents to the diet.

Rather, it found only a 1% increase to 2% of survey respondents who said they followed a vegan diet in 2017 compared to prior years. The percentage of vegetarians held steady at 3%.

However, it adds, that while 1% “isn’t wildly game-changing … it is a sign of change”​ and one that is gaining momentum at much faster rates among younger consumers.

For example, it reports that 7% of respondents who are Generation Z identify as vegetarian and 5% as vegan in 2017 compared to 4% and 3% respectively before 2017. The percentage of Millennials who identify as vegan climbed from 3% to 4%, while the percentage of Millennial vegetarians remained the same in 2017 compared to pre-2017.

Baum+Whiteman predicts that this shift is not a youthful whim that will be discarded with age, but rather likely is something younger consumers will stick with for the long haul.

Catering to vegans comes with perks

A closer look by CivicScience at the “anatomy of a vegan”​ provides insights into their motivations and could help plant-based product manufacturers more effectively reach their targets. Specifically, it found vegans tend to be environmentally friendly with 53% saying that they adjust their lifestyle to help the environment.

Vegans also are passionate and are more likely to consider food as fuel and a lifestyle statement, according to CivicScience. Its survey found 33% of vegans consider food to be their “passion and an essential part of my lifestyle and identity,”​ compared to just 17% of vegetarians and 15% of respondents who identify as neither vegan nor vegetarian.

Other good news for manufacturers and restaurants catering to vegans is CivicScience found they tend to be much more brand-loyal and are more often early adopters than non-vegans.

When shopping, 26% vegans report that brand “by a lot”​ is more important than price when shopping, compared to just 8% of vegetarians and 4% of omnivores. Price can still be a pain point though, as illustrated by CivicScience finding between 23% and 28% of all respondents saying they prioritize price “by a lot”​ over brand. As a result, companies should consider the limits of premiumization when launching new products and menu items.

Finally, CivicScience found 40% of vegans count as early adopters because they usually try new products, compared to only 32% of vegetarians and 24% of omnivores.

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