Brands are becoming increasingly aware of consumer demand for allergen-free products, resulting in more options than ever. It’s far more common now to find food and beverages in the supermarket with dairy-free, gluten-free and lactose-free claims on labels than 20 years ago, leading to a burgeoning market for alternative, plant-based products.
But according to a recent Gallup report, the number of US vegan and vegetarians has changed little since the 1990s. In both 1999 and 2001, 6% of all Americans identified as vegetarian, and in 2012 and 2018, just 5% did. In 2012, 2% of Americans identified as vegan, and in 2018, 3% did.
However, the numbers tell a different story when intersected with age and politics. Gallup found that one in 10 self-described liberals are vegetarian at 11% and 5% are vegan. Just 2% of self-described conservatives reported being vegetarian or vegan.
The highest concentration of vegetarians are in the 30-49 age group (8%) and the 18-29 age group (7%) and also make less than $30,000 annually (9%). Only 4% of people making more than $75,000 annually reported being vegetarian.
Defining the absolutes
Plant-based food sales grew by 8.1% and exceeded $3.1bn in 2017, according to Gallup. Plant-based dairy alternatives may soon account for 40% of all beverage sales in the dairy category.
The rise in popularity of plant-based alternatives also resulted in the FDA announcing last month that they plan to "review and modernize the standards of identity for US dairy products."
The FDA said relaxed restrictions on labeling can lead to misinformation and public health concerns. It also requested feedback from stakeholders and the public for drafting the new policies.