There is adequate information suggesting there has been a cultural shift toward wider acceptance and commitment to vegetarianism at the macro level, as well as changes in the food culture at the micro level throughout the American and European food sectors. Vegetarianism impacts the food processing industry, restaurant businesses, grocery sales, farm goods production, nutrition and diet planning in school lunchrooms, hospital and corporate cafeterias, airline meals, restaurant menu planning, and all the ancillary and support industries.
Some doctors proclaim vegetarianism as a healthy choice for avoiding and treating disease. From a business perspective, the following data from the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom are worth considering:
- Meat-free sales grew more than 6% in 2013
- Meat-free sales touched nearly £1 billion in 2012 with 38% of Britons buying vegetarian/meat-free food
According to vegetarian advocate Eric Pierce (Food Navigator-usa.com, March 17, 2015) an estimated 6% of the US population are vegans. Another 26% of consumers are flextarians, preferring milk and meat alternatives in part due to news reports of hormones passed into dairy from injected cows and fears of genetically modified foods.
Meat consumption in the US is down because the public does not associate red meat with healthy eating. The trend to vegetarianism is spreading among millenials and among teens concerned with healthcare maintenance. Outsourcers can help companies capitalize on consumer behavior by planning sustainability programs and creating vegetarian menus.
Demand spurs innovation and it is now easier than ever before to obtain great tasting vegetarian food. Yelp features vegetarian restaurants in its advertising. Restaurant reviews make vegetarianism sound mouthwatering. There are vegi-friendly foods for kids. There are almond and soymilk substitutes, vegi-burgers, foods containing vitamin B12, and even sweet potato fries in Cajun dip washed down with a peach oatmeal almond smoothie. Companies like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s specially cater to vegetarians watching their fat intake, saturated fats, and proteins.
Fast food restaurants also offer more variety for vegetarians. Food producers and retailers are more concerned than ever that their brand image and marketing reflect the influence of vegetarians. Post Holdings, best known for its cereals and nutrition bars, announced in October 2015 their commitment to sustainability. 57% of the chefs taking part in a 2014 National Restaurant Association culinary forecast claim meatless/vegetarian menus are the top trend in main dish menu items. One Chicago restaurant offers an all-veg menu for $185 per person.