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Is 2018 the year of the vegan?

The Vegan Society estimates that  veganism was one of 2018’s biggest trends. It was also the year that, for the first time ever, The Great British Bake Off featured a Vegan Week on the baking competition. Meat eaters and staunch vegans alike will agree that the trend is on the rise.

A vegan world

Veganism is growing in popularity around the world. One in two shoppers now follow or show an interest in a plant-based diet. According to Google Trends, the last 5 years shows an exponential rise in the number of worldwide searches for ‘veganism’.

Google Trends, ‘Vegan’, October 2018.

Populus research conducted on behalf of IGD finds shifting attitudes towards veganism, and explores the reasons for it. The research shows that:

  • One in two (52%) British grocery shoppers say that they either follow or are interested in a plant-based diet, whether this be vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian

  • This rises to two in three (68%) for 18-24 year olds who say that they either follow or are interested in following a plant-based diet

  • Amongst 18-24 year olds, 30% follow or consider following a vegan diet vs. 17% of all shoppers

  • Loyal vegans are still relatively niche– only 2% of British grocery shoppers claim to follow a vegan diet all of the time

The evidence suggests that, although very few British grocery shoppers are committed vegans, many of the public – in particular younger age groups – have an interest in following a vegan diet. This may play a role in purchasing decisions, and demonstrates that plant-based alternatives may have a wider appeal than in the past.

The vehicle behind veganism

There are two clear main drivers when it comes to veganism, according to our research. Health and ethics are the public’s main motivators for adopting a plant-based diet. Brands and retailers that can tap into the drivers behind the trend, may be able to better meet consumer needs. Our research shows that:

  • Nearly half (45%) of British grocery shoppers claim they are following or considering a plant-based diet because it is healthier

  • 41% claim they follow or consider following a plant-based diet for ethical reasons

  • 30% say it’s because it is better for the environment

  • 21% follow a plant-based diet or would do so to lose weight or look better

  • 18-24 year olds are more likely than the average shopper to be motivated by ethical reasons (51%), environmental concerns (48%) and to lose weight/look good (25%)

It’s perhaps not surprising that younger age groups are more likely than the average shopper to follow some form of veganism. They are, after all, the most social engaged group. Social media undoubtedly plays a role. ‘Vegan desserts’ pins were saved by up to 329% while plant proteins were up by 417% in Pinterest last year. Celebrity endorsement of veganism also plays a part. Well-known figures such as Beyonce, Venus Williams and Madonna are all out and proud vegans, may also help to elevate the trend.

How brands can inspire with veganism

The evidence suggests that there is opportunity to further inspire shoppers with vegan recipes. Plant-based diets and meat-free alternatives are on the rise. This leaves brands and retailers with ample opportunity to harness the trend and inspire shoppers.

  • 22% of grocery shoppers are interested in experimenting with different vegan recipes

  • 16% of grocery shoppers are interested in baking vegan desserts and cakes

  • 22% would like more recipe ideas for vegan meals in supermarkets

  • 22% would like a greater choice of more convenient vegan options, such as ready meals

Vanessa Henry, Shopper Insight Manager at IGD:

“We are seeing an increasing number of people adopting a more flexible approach to their diets, whether it’s just for one meal or one day a week, shoppers are increasingly choosing a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diet.

This is for a variety of reasons; the aspiration to be healthier, to adopt more ethical credentials and also to limit the impact on the environment. Some shoppers also claim it helps them reduce their overall food bill.

“This suggests plant-based products being launched on the market now won’t just be confined to the 2% of shoppers who identify more regularly with veganism. They will appeal to a much broader group of shoppers.”

There is still a proportion of shoppers who believe they will miss out on key nutrients if they follow a vegan diet, which is something retailers and brands would need to address in order to ensure the trend goes further. However, with over a third (38%) of grocery shoppers believing that vegan foods taste as good as non-vegan foods, there can be no doubt that attitudes are shifting.

Find out more about IGD ShopperVista here.


Populus interviewed a nationally representative sample of 2,055 GB adults on behalf of ShopperVista aged 18+ between 31 August and 2 September 2018. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of GB adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at www.populus.co.uk

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