Flexitarians are spurring growth in the plant-based food sector according to an IBISWorld study released this week. The study found that sales of vegan food in Australia have increased rapidly over the past five years due to greater mainstream demand.
“Fifteen or 20 years ago, availability was most important for vegans – they wanted plant-based foods in more places, regardless of taste,” Cale Drouin, a plant-based food distributor in Australia, tells the Sydney Morning Herald.
Today, however, “there’s no longer an ‘all or nothing’ attitude to vegan foods," Drouin says. "As I went into distribution, it was clear the future was in the mainstream. Now we have achieved the convenience of supermarkets and stores stocking vegan foods, taste and price will come to the fore for manufacturers.”
The rise in flexitarianism, he says, has driven manufacturers to prioritize taste in order to win over “occasional” vegans.
“The mainstream is what drives change,” he tells Melbourne radio station 3AW.
The new research indicates that the growth of flexitarianism in Australia is due in large part to greater awareness of the environmental impact of animal-based agriculture, which is responsible for an estimated 18 percent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and an average of 14 to 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
This rise in flexitarianism does not, however, point to an increased transition to a fully vegan diet, according to a March paper by international research and data analytics group YouGov. The paper notes that while 14 percent of Brits identify as flexitarian, 93 percent of these part-time-vegans note they are “not at all likely” to transition to a fully plant-based diet.
"This indicates that being a flexitarian is a conscious and deliberate long-term choice and not just a gateway to a fully meat-free diet," reads the paper. "This group wants to eat less meat but they are not going to give up the occasional burger."
Recent market reports show exponential growth in innovation from within the plant-based food sector, with a variety of new plant-based meat, cheese, and milk options emerging on the marketplace. One market report from FAIRR estimates that the sector could reach $5.2 billion by next year.
Research continues to point to the environmental benefits of plant-based diets, with one research review from Oxford indicating that a vegan diet "is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth."
Related on Organic Authority
Is Vegan the New Organic? Plant-Based Foods Top $3.1 Billion in Sales
Plant-Based Meat Dubbed 'Useful Transition Food' for Healthier Way of Life, Study Says
More Evidence Supports the Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet