Why people in rich countries are eating more vegan food
Comment le véganisme est devenu tendance dans les pays occidentaux.
Le véganisme, consistant à ne consommer aucun produit issu des animaux ou de leur exploitation, semble être en pleine expansion dans les pays occidentaux. Des sous-courants de ce régime alimentaire, tel que le « flexitarisme », ont aussi fait leur entrée dans le langage courant. Mais que disent les chiffres ? Se pourrait-il que le véganisme ne soit qu’un simple phénomène de mode ? Un journaliste de The Economist mène l’enquête...
It is lunchtime and a queue is forming for the burgers at Krowarzywa, voted the city’s best in an online poll: students, families, businessmen in suits. This is Warsaw, where (you might think) lunch is usually a slab of meat with a side order of sausage. But at Krowarzywa no animals were harmed in the making of the food. The burgers are made of millet, tofu or chickpeas. The bestselling “vegan pastrami” is made of seitan, a wheat-based meat substitute. 2. Warsaw has almost 50 vegan restaurants. That does not mean it has all that many vegans. Kassia, a 20-something professional in the queue, says she has no ethical objection to eating meat. She comes to Krowarzywa because she likes the food. Kornel Kisala, the head chef, thinks that most of Krowarzywa’s clientele eat meat, but it does not worry him. “Animals don’t care whether you eat a vegan burger because it is fashionable or because it is tasty.” Altogether, 60% of Poles say they plan to cut back on meat this year. Eating vegetarian and vegan meals now and then is one of the ways some choose to do so.
ACROSS THE RICH WORLD
3. Interest in vegan food has been booming across the rich world. Celebrity claims of veganism are everywhere: Bill Clinton and Al Gore, Serena and Venus Williams, Lewis Hamilton, Mike Tyson, Beyoncé, take your pick. In America sales of “plant-based” foods—a term for foods that contain no meat, eggs or dairy—rose 20% in the year to June 2018, according to Nielsen,
a market-research group. That was two and a half times faster than vegan foods grew in the year before.
4. McDonald’s is offering McVegan burgers in Scandinavia. The American restaurants in the TGI Fridays chain sell soyabean burgers that ooze blood made of beetroot juice. Waitrose, a posh British grocery chain, introduced a range of vegan food in 2017, and says sales of vegan and vegetarian foods in July 2018 were 70% above the level in July 2017.
5. Some people see great things in this. Two years ago Eric Schmidt, a Silicon Valley figure who used to be chairman of Google, called plant-based meat substitutes the world’s most important future technology; he foresaw them improving people’s health, reducing environmental degradation and making food more affordable for the poor in developing countries. The founder of the first vegan society said in 1944 that “in time [people] will view with abhorrence the idea that men once fed on the products of animals’ bodies.” Many since have shared his hope. Perhaps their time is come at last.
6. If so, it is a slow coming. Meat consumption worldwide has been growing consistently by almost 3% a year since 1960, mostly because people in poor countries buy more meat as they get richer, and the trend has yet to slow. In the early 1970s the average Chinese person ate 14kg of meat a year. Now they eat 55kg. But though most growth in consumption has been in the developing world, rich countries are eating more meat, too; their consumption is just not growing as fast as it used to. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), meat consumption in the richest nations has risen 0.7% a year since 1991.
7. In America, Nielsen found in 2017 that 3% of the population called themselves vegans and 6% vegetarians (people who eschew meat, but eat eggs and/ or dairy products). But more detailed research by Faunalytics, a company which has been running large surveys of eating habits for 20 years, puts the numbers at just 0.5% for vegans and 3.4% for vegetarians.
WHO ARE THE VEGANS?
8. The idea that veganism is most widely espoused, if not necessarily adhered to, by the young seems to be true in many countries. In Germany, according to Mintel, a research firm, 15% of 16- to 24-year-olds say that they are vegetarian, compared with 7% of the population at large. In many countries declared vegans lean towards the political left. In America, polling by Pew has found that 15% of liberals espouse a meat-free diet, as opposed to 4% of Republicans, and three-quarters of vegans and vegetarians are women.
9. Veganism is not a way of life that it is easy to keep up. According to Faunalytics, for every active American vegetarian or vegan there are more than five people who say they have abandoned such a diet. The growth in the number of restaurants catering to veganism and the availability of plant-based products on shelves may reduce this churn and allow more to stick with the pro
10. Overall, though, it seems safe to say that the number of people sometimes or regularly choosing to eat vegan food is growing much faster than the growth in people deeply committed to a meat-, egg- and dairy-free life. Patrice Bula, a vice-president at Nestlé, says he thinks that only a quarter of the people buying his company’s vegan meals are committed vegetarians or vegans. People in this larger group are often called “flexitarians”, who shift back and forth between omnivorous and vegetable diets. Almost two Americans in five say they fit this category, says Nielsen. The true vegan efflorescence lies in casual, part-time veganism.