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Nine ways vegans and vegetarians are changing the food industry

April 6, 2017

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Americans’ increasing concerns about health issues have contributed to a booming population of vegetarians and vegans. These facts should help jump-start a business story on the increasingly mainstream industry.

1. A 2008 Vegetarian Times Study showed that 3.2 percent of U.S. adults—7.3 million people—are vegetarians. An additional 22.8 million follow a vegetarian-inclined diet. Approximately 0.5 percent, or 1 million, are vegans, consuming no animal products at all.

2. In recent years, the vegan diet has made its way into popular culture. Events such as veggie-centric food festivals help spread the word. Festivals in 33 states showcase vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants, food and beverage purveyors, as well as clothing, accessories and more.

3. Just because someone doesn’t eat meat doesn’t mean they don’t crave the flavor and protein of meat. One big trend is animal-product alternatives, including vegetarian burgers, soy and rice milk. A Meat Substitutes Market report predicts meat substitutes will be a $5.96 billion market by 2022.

4. To ensure that large quantities of fresh vegetables are readably available to meet consumer demand, buyers are initiating large-volume contracts. That can mean small-scale vegetable growers often have a harder time selling their products. Stories about how small local growers market their crops can be illuminating.

5. NPD Group research suggests that millennials and Generation Z are adopting veg-inclined diets at an early age, which could boost fresh vegetable consumption by 10 percent in the near future. According to the research, consumers under 40 have increased their fresh vegetable intake by 52 percent over the last decade. The popularity of vegan food has nearly doubled on college campuses. By contrast, those age 60 and up decreased their vegetable consumption by 30 percent.

6. Statistics show that businesses using the term “vegan” are growing at a rapid pace, as companies cater to the needs of non-meat eaters and flexitarians, who have a primarily vegetarian diet. Vegan-related new businesses accounted for 4.3 percent of total startups in 2015, up from 2.8 percent in 2014 and 1.5 percent in 2012, according to Innova Market Insights.

Source: Innova Market Insights, 2016

7. According to the Google Food Trends report, “vegan” is one of the top words Americans use when searching online for recipes. In 2016, searches for “vegan cheese” increased by 80 percent, “vegan mac and cheese” by 69 percent and vegan ice cream by 109 percent.

8. According to the United State Census Bureau, there were 4,859 establishments in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Merchant Wholesaler industry in 2012. The industry didn’t even conduct the survey in 1997. Sales per establishment increased by 23 percent from 2007 to 2012.

9. Freshness has become key when it comes to vegetables and fruits. According to a 2015 Study of America’s Consumption of Fruit & Vegetables, the sale of fresh fruit grew 4 percent from 2010 to 2015 and the sale of fresh vegetables grew by 10 percent. Meanwhile, canned fruits and vegetables sales decreased by 18 percent during the same period.


  • Yu Zhang

    Yu is a passionate multimedia journalist who has reported on a wider variety of stories in the U.S. and China. Yu has investigated the state arrest of lawyers in China, left-behind children in rural areas, and talked to several founders of major vent...

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