The Vegetarians Are Coming, Be Prepared!

December 29, 2016

Grocerants and prepared foods departments take note of the growing number of vegetarians and vegans as you design menus.

Where as once vegans and vegetarians may have been thought of as a “hippie” stereotype, the choice to follow this diet is emerging more and more in shoppers and for a variety of reasons. It’s not just the animal lover that turns to a plant-based diet these days. Health benefits, sustainability, and cost are strong motivators as well.

This year in Los Angeles, one of the country's top trendsetting cities for food, a vegan restaurant was awarded one of the best new restaurants in four different publications. And while we can’t realistically compare the way people eat in LA to the rest of the country, grocerants in particular and prepared foods departments of supermarkets must pay attention to this growing trend. 

The Vegetarian Resource Group reports estimated this year that about eight million U.S. adults are vegetarians, and half of those are vegans, excluding not only meat from their diets, but also dairy, seafood, or anything that comes from an animal (for some vegans, that even means no honey). 

What’s even more interesting is that 5.3% of Millennials are vegetarian. But don’t discount this movement with older generations, because those numbers have risen as well. Currently 3.7% of Generation X is vegetarian. 

When we looked a little deeper at Millennials feelings, we also found that according to a World Economic Forum's annual Global Shapers survey (26,000 millennials across 181 countries) the number one world issue to them is climate change and destruction of natural resources. Over 45% said they were most concerned about our environmental crisis. 

More vegetarian/vegan products are being introduced into the supermarkets, and companies like Beyond Meat are creating lab grown products that appear and taste like meat. We’ve seen fishless fish by Gardein, and in Phil’s Food Reviews just in the last couple of months vegan jerky, tofu dumplings, dairy/egg free salad dressings…the list goes on, and these products have elevated taste profiles for plant-based options like never before. 

For grocerants and prepared foods designing their menus, here's a tip. According to the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) and Harris Interactive, those interested in laying off the animal products are focused on eating more greens. Approximately 75 percent of respondents said that when looking for a vegetarian product, they would purchase a meal containing leafy greens such as broccoli, kale or collards. Most eaters in this group are not interested in processed vegetarian/vegan meat imitations, so for the prepared foods section, think greens and healthy hearty salads vs. soy dogs, burgers, and other meat analogues. 

Take the veggie burger to the next level and offer other sandwich options. Nearly half of all respondents indicated that they would purchase a vegetarian or vegan deli sandwich in a national sandwich chain. As the VRG points out, most chains and restaurants have added vegetarian burgers, but adding more meatless options is definitely desired.

Clearly the meat free population is significant, including those keeping kosher or halal who sometimes choose vegetarian products, as well as those concerned with the environment and their wallets! Catering to the ever changing and evolving American diet by promoting more meatless options is a great place to start. Creating displays or even promotions with vegetarian products will attract customer’s attention – and even for omnivores, including more plant-based items in their diet will only benefit their health.