The Global Movement to Eat Less Meat

The Global Movement to Eat Less Meat

The shift away from meat eating is a global phenomenon, and will affect the food industry for decades to come. 

All around the world, more and more people are deciding to reduce their meat intake and consume more plant based products. Meat alternatives and replacements are everywhere, and the idea of eating less meat is being discussed in the media and in homes around the world. Vegetarianism is taking hold in different countries for different reasons, and uniting an ever-growing group of global citizens.

Historically, India has been the world’s leader in vegetarians, with over 30% of the population not eating meat. Behind India, with 14% vegetarians, are the surprising triad of Brazil, Switzerland, and Taiwan. The populations of Israel, New Zealand, Germany, Jamaica, Sweden, and Vietnam all have 10% or more vegetarians. While many of these food habits are driven by local cuisine and culture, recent years are seeing a further global shift away from meat. According to Statistica (link: https://www.statista.com/chart/18852/countries-with-the-biggest-increase-of-the-vegetarian-population-between-2016-and-2017/), Nigeria and Pakistan have both gained more than a million vegetarians since 2016, and Indonesia, Philippines, Germany, Brazil, and Turkey all gained more than 100,000.

Here are just a few examples of the food trends that are shaping this reduced meat movement:

Minder Vlees in the Netherlands

Recent years have seen efforts by the government, environmental groups, and health advocates to help Dutch people eat less meat. From an influential segment on Zondag met Lubach a few years ago (more info), to a new campaign sponsored by Wereld Natuur Fonds (more info), the Netherlands is becoming more meat-conscious.

Impossible Burger in America

Founded in 2011, Impossible Foods makes plant-based products that re-create the experience of animal products at the molecular level. They launched the Impossible Burger in 2016, and in April of 2019, fast food giant Burger King used their patties to test market the Impossible Whopper. The Impossible Whopper was a viral success, and by August it was available throughout the United States. Interestingly, Burger King stores saw a boost in beef-based Whoppers as well, perhaps due to the traffic increase generated by the Impossible Whopper (link: https://www.businessinsider.nl/impossible-whopper-boosts-burger-king-sales-2019-9?international=true&r=US). The enormous success of the Impossible Whopper is leading Burger King to launch three more meatless burgers in the coming months, and Burger King is also test-marketing a meatless Rebel Whopper in thousands of locations in Europe.

Growing Vegetarianism in China

China remains the world’s largest market for pork, beef, and poultry, but that demand is steadily decreasing as the Chinese are becoming more health- and environmentally-conscious. Between 2014 and 2016, pork sales declined by more than 1.5 million tonnes, while imports of avocados increased a staggering 13,000% between 2010 and 2016 (source).

Even in meat-loving Australia, research shows that sales of red meat have stalled, and vegan-friendly foods are soaring (source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2019-04-09/vegans-australia-red-meat-declining/10980270).

The Shift Away from Meat is Demographic, not Regional

Not only is the movement to eat less meat a global movement, but it is generational. Study after study, from every part of the world, younger people are choosing to eat less meat. Over half of Millenial and Generation Z Americans consume plant-based meat at least once a month. In 2017, the Universities and Colleges Vegetarian Association was formed in China, and advocates for schools to offer vegetarian and vegan options for students. According to the Independent, one in five young people believe that people will stop eating meat entirely within the next 10 years (source).

This is critical because within the next few years, Millennials will become the largest living generation, outnumbering the remaining Baby Boomers (source). As these new generations redefine eating and food culture, then food manufacturers, restaurants, and new product developers must develop reduced meat and meat-free products to appeal to a more healthful, more mindful way of eating.