The vegan revolution in the US

The plant-based diet has been around for millennia – in Buddhist and Jain diets to name a few. But recent years have seen a surge in veganism diet adoption thanks to an increasing awareness of health, ethics and the environment. New brands and restaurants are starting to focus more on meat-free production to cater to this expanding market. But is this trend here to stay or is it simply a fad?

The answer is hard to predict. There are many positive reasons behind this surge in veganism among American – and international – consumers and it has become a norm in many cities. Estimates for the global vegan food market are predicted to reach $31.4 billion by 2026. This trend is predominantly driven by younger generations who are becoming increasingly focused on animal welfare, personal wellness and climate change at the forefront. Spreading messages has never been easier thanks to social media platforms and on-demand documentaries to help gain awareness wherever you are in the world.

“The preference for plant-based alternatives to meat and other animal products has exploded in popularity over the most recent decade, with over 9.7 million Americans now identifying as vegan,” said a post on Veg World Mag. California was one of the states that helped to mainstream veganism through celebrity conversions and a surge in new restaurants, bars and cafes all offering plant-based alternatives. 

Benefits of veganism

Like any diet, the health benefits depend on the individual as well as what you eat every day. Many people switch to a vegan diet to eliminate meat and dairy products for either ethical reasons or in some cases, to avoid products like milk and cheese due to lactose intolerances. Apart from these, the rising effort to combat climate change is also a significant factor, with consumers gaining a heightened awareness on the impacts of eating too much meat. Some perceived health benefits include weight loss, lowering blood sugar levels and improving kidney function and helping to maintain a nutrient-dense diet. This of course is based on a healthy vegan diet with the necessary vitamins and nutrients needed for a well-rounded regime. A 2018 Gallup poll reported that around 3% of people in the United States are fully vegan, plus the sales of plant-based foods are rising.

Costs and the environment

Maintaining a vegan diet requires more than cutting out meat, dairy and eggs though. There are several additional things to consider including ensuring you get the right amount of nutrients to replace the meat. It can be pricey becoming a vegan too, with many organic brands and ingredients costing more than regular groceries. In some ways, the vegan lifestyle is more popular among more affluent, wealthy individuals who can afford the extra costs that come with organic brands and meat-free consumer products. 

Although many people turn to veganism for the environmental benefits, some dairy alternatives aren’t always necessarily sustainable or eco-friendly choices. Such an example includes almond milk which actually uses a lot of water to make and, although animal-free, isn’t touted for its eco-friendly practices.

New trends on the vegan market

There has been a huge uptick in plant-based consumer products aligning with the vegan revolution. New data from the Plant Based Foods Association and The Good Food Institute revealed that US sales of plant-based meat, dairy and eggs overtook sales of animal products for the third year in a row, surpassing $7 billion up by 27% in 2020. “In 2020, 57 percent of all U.S. households purchased plant-based foods (that’s over 71 million households)- up from 53 percent in 2019”, said the report. Plant-based meat is the largest plant-based category and reached $2.5 billion, accounting for 35% of the total plant-based food market. Big brands like Impossible Foods Inc are preparing for a public listing which could value the U.S. plant-based burger maker at around $10 billion or more. Moreover, vegan products are making their way into fast-food chain menus with KFC, Pizza Hut and California Pizza Kitchen (to name a few), adding plant-based options in their regular menus. According to reports, McDonalds’ will begin testing a new McPlant line with Beyond Meat from next year.

Undoubtedly, veganism has been one of the most popular mainstream trends in the food and beverage industry over the past decade. Health-conscious consumers and sustainability trends are leading the surge in demand for vegan products and a shift in diets. Major companies in the market include The Archer Daniels Midland Company, Amy’s Kitchen, Beyond Meat, Daiya Food and Tofutti Brands.

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