Veganism Popularity Growth Takes a Plunge; UK, Germany Top the Popularity Table
Veganism popularity appears to be losing steam worldwide, according to the latest Google Trends data. Veganism searches in the first quarter of 2022 showed a marked decline compared to both Q1 2021 and Q1 2020, a trend that had already become visible through most of 2021.
Google Trends, a Google-owned data analytics tool, lets you easily analyze and compare the relative search popularity of various topics around the world such as veganism, comprising vegan-related searches made in any language (e.g. “veganism”, “vegan restaurants near me”, “vegan recipes”, “vegane rezepte”, “vegan essen”).
Google Trends shows a search popularity timeline for various topics relative to all Google searches. Put another way, Google Trends shows how hot a certain topic is compared to everything else that people search for every day on Google.
Is Veganism Popularity Slowing Down?
When it comes to online searches, veganism is not as hot as it used to be. As stated above, Google Trends showed a marked slowdown in the search popularity of vegan-related terms.
However, Google Trends does not provide an all-round popularity measurement. By its own acknowledgment, Google Trends is not a scientific poll and shouldn’t be confused with polling data. However, it does provide a good barometer of what people shop, eat, or want to learn more about.
One of the caveats of Google Trends is that it shows the relative popularity for a search term or topic in Google. Hence, there are instances where a topic attracts more interest over time but is overshadowed by other world events or trendier topics. If that happens, Google Trends will report a lower search popularity score, despite an increase in absolute number of searches for a given topic.
To find out whether this scenario applies to veganism searches, we turned to Google Adwords, yet another Google tool, but one that lets you research absolute search volumes data.
Chef’s Pencil has analyzed the search volumes for the most popular 500 vegan-related keywords performed in the United States over a period of four years. This covers a wide set of vegan-related searches, from vegan recipes to vegan butter and chocolate to searches like vegan food and vegan restaurants.
We only excluded searches for vegan celebrities, which usually cause big temporary spikes in search volumes and therefore distorts overall trends.
The results provide a more nuanced picture of veganism popularity in the United States. Overall, vegan-related searches have actually increased over the past couple of years in the United States. But the surge is driven almost exclusively by vegans looking to eat out: searches for vegan restaurants and vegan food near me skyrocketed in the summer of 2021, and the first quarter of 2022 also looks particularly strong.
This trend has been observed in the non-vegan restaurants category as well. After a dreary 2020 and the tumultuous first part of 2021, vaccines and loosening pandemic restrictions allowed Americans to head back to their favorite restaurants. And so, they did.
On the other hand, fewer people are searching for vegan recipes than they did two years ago, which is a key indicator of the changes in the popularity of veganism. This is not necessarily due to home cooking fatigue, as overall recipe searches in the United States have actually increased over the past two years.
The same downward trend can be observed for various vegan staple foods such as vegan cheese, butter, or chocolate. We analyzed the search volumes for eleven vegan food staples and the overall search volumes have dropped in the past couple of years.
In the United Kingdom and Australia, the number of absolute searches for vegan-related terms (source: Google Adwords) are substantially down compared to 2020. The charts below show the number of vegan-related searches for the past four years for the top 200 most popular vegan-related keywords.
Sales data from industry groups backs up the trends seen in Google Adwords. While the number of plant-based food sales continue to increase, the pace of growth is much lower compared to the past few years.
A report by the Good Food Institute shows that plant-based meat sales in the United States increased 6% in 2021, down considerably from an impressive 45% increase in 2020. On the bright side, despite slowing growth, sales of plant-based foods have outpaced total foods sales.
The same can be observed for Veganuary numbers, the highly popular vegan movement that helps people observe a vegan diet for a full month at the beginning of each year.
Veganuary participants were at an all-time high in 2022, but the pace of annual growth was substantially lower compared to previous years. The number of Veganuary participants in 2022 grew by 8% Y-o-Y, versus a 45% Y-o-Y growth in 2021 and a 61% Y-o-Y growth in 2020.
Are People Opting for Flexitarianism Instead of Veganism?
All in all, while veganism popularity does not seem to have tanked, its rise appears to have slowed down considerably. Data from Google and other industry reports show a continued interest in veganism and vegan products, but the exuberant growth of the veganism movement has faded into an incremental one.
While veganism growth is at least temporarily slowing down, some say flexitarism is the new niche movement going mainstream. “As flexitarianism becomes more mainstream, with 40% of European meat eaters planning to eat less meat, it’s no longer only vegans and vegetarians who are recognizing that every meal is an opportunity to eat more sustainably“, says Carlotte Lucas, corporate engagement manager at the Good Food Institute Europe.
Where Veganism Was Most Popular Over the Past 12 Months
Google Trends also allows you to geographically benchmark the search popularity score by providing search interest scores for cities, regions, and countries. For example, if Portland, Oregon has a veganism popularity score of 100 and Berlin, Germany has a score of 86, it means that a higher percentage of Portlanders searched for vegan foods and products compared to Berliners.
Once again, the United Kingdom tops the veganism popularity charts in spite of a drop on veganism popularity scores. According to a poll conducted by YouGov and cited by the Guardian, 36% of Brits approve a vegan diet and many of them have expressed an interest in becoming vegan.
Germany ranks second most popular country for vegans in 2022. By some estimates, Germany is home to more than 2.5 million vegans and is world-renowned for its plant-based and meat substitutes industry.
Germany is also one of the very few countries worldwide where veganism search popularity did not see a steep drop in 2022.
Germany’s southern neighbor Austria has had a very long presence among the world’s most vegan-friendly countries. According to some estimates, 1.2% of the population live a vegan life and you can now even find a vegan schnitzel and strudel.
Another meat-loving country turning vegan, New Zealand, found its ranking unchanged from our prior report. New Zealand’s vegan and vegetarian population is, however, a subject of debate. Some research has put this number at roughly 6% of the population, while according to another survey, it is as high as 10% of the population.
Regardless of the exact number, both surveys highlight a steady increase in the number of New Zealanders that stopped eating meat over the past decade or so.
Most Popular Cities for Veganism in 2022
The seaside town of Brighton, roughly 60 miles south of London, is the new vegan capital of the world. It’s the first time that any city other than Portland or Bristol, UK has taken the top spot.
Brighton is an incredibly vegan-friendly city and has several times been awarded the title best vegan city in the UK due to its very high number of vegan-friendly restaurants per capita.
The former vegan capital of the world, Portland, Oregon, takes the second spot. Portland needs no introduction to the vegan community. It is known worldwide for its thriving vegan scene and is considered the best vegan city in the United States.
Bristol, the 2020 vegan capital of the world, continues to rank extremely well among the world’s most vegan-friendly cities. It is home to a plethora of great vegan restaurants and was also dubbed one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the UK in 2021.
Germany’s Hamburg and Berlin rank, respectively, 4th and 5th worldwide. Both cities are well known internationally for their large vegan communities. According to Happy Cow, Hamburg is home to almost 40 vegan-friendly restaurants, while Berlin counts more than 100.
Amsterdam has dropped one spot from our prior report, but, nonetheless, the vegan community is thriving in this beautiful Dutch city. According to a local blog, Amsterdam saw a record 11 new vegan restaurant openings in 2021, with another four restaurants going fully vegan. This brings the number of vegan-friendly places in the city up to a very respectable 65.
Chef’s Pencil has analyzed Google Trends and Google Adwords data going back to the third quarter of 2017. Google Trends popularity scores are relative and not absolute. Please see below how Google defines regional popularity scores:
Values are calculated on a scale from 0 to 100, where 100 is the location with the most popularity as a fraction of total searches in that location, a value of 50 indicates a location which is half as popular. A value of 0 indicates a location where there was not enough data for this term.
Note: A higher value means a higher proportion of all queries, not a higher absolute query count. So a tiny country where 80% of the queries are for “bananas” will get twice the score of a big country where only 40% of the queries are for “bananas”.
Google Adwords provides statistics about how often certain words are searched (in absolute terms) and how those searches have changed over time.
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.Featured image by Ella Olsson.