In the US, 6% of consumers identify as vegan, according to the study. But the movement to eat fewer animal by-products is growing, with 90% of vegetarians considering the full switch to plant-based and 42% of meat eaters intending to either eat less meat or cut it out of their diets altogether.
UK consumers follow less extreme patterns, with just 33% of vegetarians considering veganism. However, vegans in the UK mostly approve of their food options, while American vegans do not.
Only 36% of UK vegans are dissatisfied with vegan food choices on the market, and disapproval from Americans is half and half at 50%. US vegetarians are also more likely to dislike their options than their UK counterparts.
Steve Harman of Ingredient Communications reported that the findings were inconclusive as to whether the options are actually worse in the US than the UK, or if Americans in general have a higher expectation of product availability.
But diet-specific products are still in the minority, even if they are growing. Supermarkets have designated aisles for dietary preferences like dairy-free, meat-free and gluten-free, and it isn’t just the basics.
Low-calorie, vegan ice cream is gaining popularity in the US with household names like Ben & Jerry’s and Halo Top expanding their non-dairy options. More consumers enjoy plant-based milk alternatives so much that the FDA is working on tightening label restrictions.
“I think these survey findings are potentially quite positive. In particular, the number of meat eaters who are talking about reducing their meat consumption is potentially good news for the providers of dairy alternatives,” Harman told DairyReporter.
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Affordability may also be a contributing factor in the dissatisfaction, though it wasn’t noted in the study. Products like vegan cheese substitutes can double or triple in cost when compared to dairy cheese, and quality vegan and vegetarian options at chain restaurants are typically far more expensive than a simple beef or chicken option.
Harman notes that this could be exacerbated by young vegans, as the 18-24 demographic had the highest levels in the study at 13%. Young people are less likely to have disposable income and could therefore be feeling the pricing pressures more acutely than older, more financially secure vegans.
It makes the case for more widespread and affordable plant-based food choices even clearer. The market in the US and the UK exists and is growing, waiting for companies to recognize its potential and develop new products.
Richard Clarke, founder and managing director of Ingredient Communications, said, “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.”