Would you be surprised if I told you that there had been a drastic shift in the number of people who have switched to a plant-based diet? I indeed find that there are more of us converts when I go to dinner parties.
But you still hear very little about this growing trend in the news and media, which is a bit disappointing.
When I tried to find some easy to digest data about veganism, I kept running into statistics and reports that require advanced degrees in mathematics to fully understand them. Or the facts were scattered over dozens of different pages and reports.
So, our team decided to tackle the beast to see if we could combine some real data to show the trend of the past couple of years and running into 2020.
Let's get right to it.
Part 1: The Rise Of Veganism
As a relative newcomer to veganism, I have escaped a lot of the outright objections and lunatic labels that seemed to be all too common even just 5 years ago.
I'll also quietly admit that I used to make fun of my vegan cousin Josh.
But that was before my health issues forced me to look for solutions that doctors couldn't provide.
What I have personally found in the past 12 months, is that a lot more people are rather open to and interested in conversations about veganism.
And I'm not the only one.
Everyone here at VeganLiftz was reporting less hostility, which led us down a path to see if we could find some actual data to back up our theory that there was a significant increase in the vegan trend.
Not only did we confirm this trend, but we found plenty of evidence that it will continue into 2020.
The US Vegan Population
If you go back to surveys conducted in the 90s, you'll find that less than 1% of Americans identified as vegan. In some cases, it was as low as 0.2%.
I wasn't a vegan back then, but from some friends, I have heard that they aren't surprised by that. Thinking back to my time in high school, I certainly can't remember any vegan kids from back then. And I don't think I would have trusted the cafeteria to produce anything vegan other than raw carrots.
Anyway, back to the stats.
here have been plenty of surveys in the last 10 to 15 years from very reputable sources. What we decided to do was focus on 2 Gallup polls from different years, as this would provide some consistency in the sample groups and survey methods.
In 2012, Gallup revealed that 2% of Americans identified as vegan, while in 2018 that number had jumped to 3%. That's a 50% increase in the number of vegans in just 6 years.
This certainly explains why the economic value of plant-based products has grown over the same period.
This sparked our interest to see what was happening in the rest of the world.
Different surveys over the years show a similar trend, as shown below. The slow yet steady growth of veganism in the US is undeniable.
It took some intensive research and the help from our international readers to get all the data together. The graph below shows the details about veganism in countries throughout the world.
While there is a lot of data in there, we decided to focus on three countries that stood out from the rest.
Ready for some surprises?
United Kingdom - Fastest Growth In Veganism
This came as a surprise, but it seems like our friends across the Atlantic are making a difference in setting the trend.
Published data by the Food Standards Agency has revealed that the vegan population of the UK grew from 150,000 in 2014 to over 600,000 in 2018 (2). That's quadrupling in 4 years which puts the UK well ahead on the global stage.
India - Largest Vegan Population
This really shouldn't come as much of a surprise to vegans. If you've been living this lifestyle for long enough, you can probably remember the times when the only restaurants that catered to plant diets were Indians.
More on that trend below.
Unfortunately, there is no reliable or exact data covering the Indian vegan population. However, I found many references stating that the vegetarian population of India was 38%. With a population size that big who doesn't eat meat, the vegan population has to be a significant size as well.
Australia - Most Vegan-Friendly
I've never been to Australia, but many of our readers from Down Under have reported a considerable trend in restaurants and supermarkets becoming increasingly accommodating towards vegans.
Not surprisingly, this is backed up by Google search trends as well where Australia tops the list (3).
This figure shows a country’s vegan popularity score, that is, how much Google search volume related to veganism is from that particular location. Australia, apart from having the bulk of vegan Google searches, is also considered as one of the fastest growing vegan market in the world (4).
Economics Of Veganism
1. Plant-Based Food Demand
I found some fascinating statistics published by the BBC a few years ago that showed a clear trend towards an increase in plant-based food production (5). Of course, a lot of that extra demand for plants will come from vegetarians and omnivores who are reducing their animal product intake.
But this demand certainly corresponds nicely with the above-mentioned increase in British veganism.
As seen above, the plant-based food dollar sales became a huge economic boost in 2018. With that kind of continued trend into 2020, the USA will surpass the $5 billion mark by the first quarter of 2020 (8).
These are good reasons why "vegnomy" has become a new word in economics.
2. New Vegan Businesses
The big trend in vegan food production has come under quite a bit of scrutiny, with many vegans starting to "boycott" vegan products from certain companies. For example, Alpro, although one of the leading brands in the plant-based milk industry, is owned by French food giant Danone.
It just so happens that Danone has about a 25% share of the global dairy product market (9). What are vegans supporting by spending their money on these products?
On a positive note, there is a significant increase in vegan startups covering everything from food to clothing, with many of them finding plenty of venture capital as well (9).
So if you want to be on the safe side, look for smaller companies with a vegan motto and local produce.
3. Environmental Facts
Human impact on the environment is becoming increasingly dominant in media reporting, and not a month goes by that new studies go unpublished about these ecological impacts.
While CO2 emissions have been a hot topic for quite some time, it's our diet's carbon footprints that impact our lifestyle the most.
This is where it gets interesting.
Not surprisingly, as the graph below shows, veganism has by far the smallest carbon footprint of all diets. It's less than half the amount when compared to a meat lover. Also, if you've taken one step further by starting to grow your own food, then that number will be even smaller.
Part 2: Veganism In The Real World
Once we managed to get out of the cloud of stats and facts from around the world, we were pleasantly surprised by the positive trend that we discovered. And with plenty of financial news outlets predicting a continued rise in plant-based food production into 2020, we decided to see what we could find out about the demographics.
Ready for some more surprises?
What Kind Of People Are Turning To Veganism?
Forbes did some statistical data analysis in 2018 to identify the age, income, and political ideology background of vegetarians and vegans in the US (10).
This is by far one of the most fascinating charts that we saw, especially when you look at the age profile of vegans.
In the 18 to 29 year part of the population, 3% identify as vegans, while in the 30 to 49-year band, it's 4%. Prior to doing the research, we expected younger adults to have the highest percentile (11).
Then comes a massive dip to just 1% in the 50 to 64 band, and a sudden rise again to 3% in the 65 plus year group.
What would have been fascinating to see were the exact reasons for switching to veganism by age group.
Our theory is that 65+-year-olds are probably switching to plant foods for health reasons as various medical conditions, especially heart-related, tend to creep up in this group.
Which leads us to...
What Are The Most Common Reasons?
For this, we found some surveys conducted in the UK and reported by the BBC (12).
And there are a few surprises here as well.
The number one reason non-meat eaters gave for not eating animal products was animal welfare. It's great to see that many people are showing concern about how animals are being treated in the food production industry.
But what surprised us even more was...
The second most common reason was environmental in nature. Our team here always took this reason for granted, because we thought that people switch to a vegan lifestyle to improve their overall health. It certainly was the reason for me when I was battling illnesses a few years ago.
But it's great to see that people are waking up to the fact that eating meat has such a huge impact on carbon emissions, as we pointed out above.
You can't call yourself an environmentalist and eat meat. Period
- Howard Lyman, Animal Rights Activist
This is a reason that is very close to my own heart, as I spent months suffering from an illness that doctors couldn't figure out.
From high cholesterol to antibiotics to all sorts of chemicals concentrated in industrial meat products, there are tons of evidence that people are getting seriously sick and dying because they eat meat.
Celebrities And Athletes That Have Turned To Veganism
The following is, by far, not an exhaustive list of celebrities and athletes who have turned to a vegan lifestyle.
The reason we picked these 4 is that they are from very different walks of life, sports, and careers.
And yet, they are able to achieve levels of success that most of their competitors envy.
You don't get much stronger than a 3-time world champion as a strong man, along with countless German and European titles to go along with them.
His reasons are in the animal rights agenda, and he is living proof that you can achieve incredible physical strength without relying on animal products.
I couldn't find a definitive answer as to when the 5-time world F1 champion switched to a plant-only diet.
But from what I can tell, he has won at least 2 championships as a vegan.
His reasons for switching were mainly moral and environmental, and he is said to be launching a chain of vegan burger restaurants in London.
I have plenty of protein in my diet and I've gained muscle, and I'm healthier and happier than I've ever been. Wish I did it sooner.
- Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1 Driver
You don't get much more successful in tennis than with a name like Venus Williams.
Similar to many other athletes, it was health reasons that brought Venus to a plant-based diet after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that left her with excessive fatigue.
Not eating meat doesn't seem to have stopped her.
Former president Bill Clinton switched to veganism in 2011 after he had to undergo an emergency heart surgery.
This event certainly shows anyone can have heart disease and president Clinton claims that veganism may actually have saved his life.
Which Way Is The Trend Pointing?
As vegans, our team is obviously a little bit biased to think that veganism has become a movement and that our website is contributing to the trend. The growing interest in this site has certainly been welcomed, but when it comes to making trend predictions, we prefer a data-driven approach.
So, with the last Gallup survey from 2018 indicating that 3% of Americans identify as vegan, and the UK experiencing a 300% increase in the number of vegans in 4 years, we can say with pretty good confidence that through 2020, we are likely to see significant increases in the trend.
Because veganism is no longer some crazy niche diet and lifestyle, we think that convincing people to try it out will continue to become increasingly easy.
And that leads us to...
Part 3: A Not So Inconvenient Lifestyle Choice
One reason we think there has been such a drastic increase in many countries is that it has (a) become completely acceptable to only eat plant foods, and (b) it's no longer a difficult and disruptive lifestyle choice.
Let me explain.
Vegan Product Availability
Even in the few years that I have been a strict vegan, I have noticed that supermarkets have increasingly large dedicated sections to vegan products. And this is not just the case in places like Whole Foods.
It means you no longer have to go out of your way to find the ingredients to support your diet in specialized stores.
You may have also noticed that food manufacturers are increasingly labeling their food in a more obvious way. I believe this is partly tied to the fact that being vegan is no longer something that attracts ridicule.
For example, if you check out soaps, shampoos, and shower gels in the hygiene section, there are going to be quite a few that are clearly labeled as vegan-friendly.
But can this be backed up with facts?
As it turns out, the answer is yes. 1010Data published a very interesting chart in 2017, which showed the growth in the number of products sold online with the term "plant-based" in their description (11).
In just 18 months the number had risen from about 120,000 to almost 350,000. This may not mean that there are 230,000 new vegan products available, but clearly labeling existing products makes it so much easier for us (12).
Vegan Supportive Menus And Restaurants
It still happens to me a lot that I meet up with friends for a meal, and I have to ask for certain things on the menu to be prepared without animal products. But, I have found that the number of restaurants with no vegan option on the menu has drastically shrunk.
But what do the stats say?
Well, we analyzed the data from Happy Cow, and it reveals that since 2015, over 1,000 new vegan restaurants were added every single year (13).
Listening to what readers tell us regularly, it is becoming increasingly easy to find dedicated vegan restaurants and cafés, even in smaller towns across the US.
And with the vegan population increasing the way it is, we're also predicting that 2020 will show a significant rise in new vegan food outlets opening.
Online Vegan Resources
I want to close out this page with some site recommendations. Our team trusts these resources, especially when it comes to planning the regular dinner parties we host. Finding that wow factor for a meal has helped us convert quite a few friends over the years.
But, more importantly, these sites make our lives that much better.
1. Deliciously Ella
Ella's experience rings close to my heart. She started the site after managing to overcome some pretty serious health issues by switching to a whole plant food diet. What's excellent about Ella's service is that you can get a cool app with access to hundreds of recipes.
2. Oh My Veggies
Not just full of recipes, this site has taught me a lot about different cooking methods to preserve nutrients and make my meals tastier. You certainly won't run out of ideas any time soon.
3. Choose Veg
Choose Veg is another team favorite because of the great combination of meal planners and an active Facebook community. It's a great place to get tips and ideas from others.
4. The Conscientious Eater
If you’re craving for some delicious vegan noodles, The Conscientious Eater is a good place to start. This blog doesn’t have the most extensive recipe collection, but Faith, the woman behind it, creates unique recipes that are so unbelievably easy to make.
5. World of Vegan
If you ask me for a resource when you’re just starting out with veganism, I’d most likely recommend World of Vegan. From health, fitness, beauty, and even pregnancy -- you’ll learn and appreciate a ton of valuable vegan information in here.
6. The Veggie Table
Laura’s extensive experience in the food industry made The Veggie Table possible -- a blog site that focuses on vegetarian and vegan cooking. She doesn’t only put up recipes, but also gives useful and healthy tips, especially if you’re new with the diet.
7. My Goodness Kitchen
Amanda, the founder of My Goodness Kitchen, is a busy mom, wife, author, food photographer, blogger, and so much more. She certainly has a lot on her plate so she makes sure her vegan recipes are super quick and easy.
8. Main Street Vegan
There are times when I’m not as passionate with veganism as I’d like to be, and when I need a little pick-me-up, Main Street Vegan is the way to go. Their blogs are so relatable and raw, with real life stories from real people.
9. The Vegan SA Directory
If you’re living in South Africa, then this site right here has all your vegan needs. It’s a directory for literally everything vegan -- restaurants, shops, products, and accommodations. If you’re not from SA, then check out their recipes and prep some healthy and delicious vegan meals at home.
10. Christina Cooks
Christina loves good food, and it shows on her blog! I love her vegan desserts and breakfast recipes. Apart from her yummy meals, she also shares how veganism saved her from a life-threatening condition -- something that, I believe, should be heard by the world!
11. The Vegan 8
If you have a busy lifestyle, cooking meals and snacks with dozens of ingredients is just not going to be feasible. Vegan 8 probably has the best selection of simple vegan meals with no more than 8 ingredients.
Veganism is growing and is expected to do so in the year 2020. There is absolutely no reason to believe that this trend won't continue in the coming years and beyond. I know there are a ton of stats to digest here. But if you're unsure about which direction veganism is heading, our research hopefully painted a very positive picture.
In the last 5 years, there has been a definite shift towards accepting the lifestyle choices that vegans make. Whether it's for health, moral, or environmental reasons, the general public seems to have come to see that veganism is the answer to a lot of problems that face us today.
We, at Vegan Liftz, are very excited about what's ahead.