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Only 1% of Americans say they are vegan – down from 3% in 2018 and 2% in 2012 – according to a new Gallup poll. The number of vegetarians, meanwhile, has also dropped from 5% in 2018 to 4% in 2023.
The Gallup survey, conducted with 1,015 Americans in July, found that political liberals adults were among the demographics most likely to be vegetarian. 9% of liberals identify as vegetarian, three times as high as political moderates or conservatives.
Lower-income Americans were around twice as likely as middle- (4%) and upper-income (3%) consumers to be vegetarian. The same goes for vegans, with lower-income individuals (3%) thrice as likely than the rest (1%) to identify this way. This is surprising, especially in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis – given one common criticism about veganism is the higher costs associated with it.
At 6%, women, meanwhile, are more likely to be vegetarian than men (2%). But in terms of vegans, more men (2%) said they identify that way than women (1%). People of colour (5% vegetarian, 2% vegan) are more likely to be meat-free than non-Hispanic white consumers (4% vegetarian, 1% vegan).
Counterintuitive consumer data
In terms of age, the poll found that all subgroups had the same percentage of people identifying as vegetarian, but more people aged 55 and over (2%) said they were vegan, compared to 1% for 18-34 and 35-54. It seems counterintuitive, given that 76% of Gen Zers say climate change is one of their biggest concerns, and recent research showing that veganism can cut emissions by 75% compared to meat-rich diets. Seperate data also shows that 60% of American Gen Zers are open to a tax on meat.
Additionally, a January 2020 poll by Gallup found that 70% of Americans cited concerns about the environment as a reason for reducing their meat intake.
These demographic differences, however, aren’t as pronounced as previous Gallup polls about the topic. And conflicting data shows that plant-based foods are in demand. The Plant Based Foods Association found that vegan food sales hit $8B in the US in 2022.
Gallup itself says that alt-meat products are “becoming more commonplace in grocery stores and restaurants”, with four in 10 Americans having tried them. Complementing these findings, research by alt-protein think tank the Good Food Institute has found that 93% of Americans who buy plant-based meat alternatives are neither vegetarian nor vegan.
But the pollsters argue that “these changes have not been met with an increase in Americans’ adoption of vegetarian or vegan diets, as less than 5% of US adults follow either eating approach”. Recent revenue drops for the likes of industry giants Beyond Meat and Oatly – combined with plant-based brands ceasing operations or coming close to it reflect the challenges facing the sector and the Gallup data certainly offers additional context.