Rise of the Flexitarians: from dietary absolutes to daily decisions

Sensemaking / Rise of the Flexitarians: from dietary absolutes to daily decisions

Young people are approaching their diets with greater awareness of its impacts, and eating less meat than other age groups.

By Alex Caldwell / 10 Jun 2015

The wider availability of vegetarian options in shops and restaurants may be driven by the changing preferences of consumers, who are becoming more conscious of their daily diets, and reducing their intake of animal products as a result. Veganism and vegetarianism is especially popular amongst millennials, with 20% of 16-24 years olds in the UK following these diets, according to the market research company Mintel. A similar trend has been observed in Germany, Michelle Perret reports in Global Meat News, referring to a study of 1,000 people aged over 16, also by Mintel. 

The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s figures suggest western Europeans ate 10% less meat in 2009 than they did in 1990, with per capita consumption falling from 95.5kg to 87kg over that time period.

The rise of low-meat diets has given birth to terms such as 'Flexitarian', for those who eat a vegan and vegetarian diet for most of the time but don't eliminate meat altogether; 'Demitarian', for those making a conscious effort to reduce meat consumption largely for environmental reasons; and both groups united under the 'Reducetarian' community. One in eight (13%) UK meat-buyers claim they are interested in reducing their meat consumption, be that for ethical, environmental, health or economic reasons.

Factors in the rising appeal of vegetarian food include a combination of rising meat prices in and a greater awareness of the effects of meat on the environment and health and the desire for more transparency in food after scandals such as the 2013 horsemeat scandal in Europe and a string of such scandals in Asia.

Vegans and vegetarians have not been as welcoming to the new “part-time vegans” as you might expect. In 2013, Le Commensal, a vegetarian chain with restaurants in Quebec and Toronto, adopted a flexitarian menu to attract more customers, but ended up alienating their existing clientele. Some hardline loyal customers boycotted the place, and it filed for bankruptcy soon after.

World Meat Free Day on 15 June, 2015 is a campaign to get 10 million people to swap meat for plant-based proteins in one of their meals. This promotes the simple pledge to eat less meat rejecting and ‘all or nothing mindset’ over an in favour of greater mindfulness of our daily dietary choices.

Trend briefing by Alex Caldwell

Image credit: Lablascovegmenu / Flickr

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