Plant-Based and Vegan Eating Continues to Rise

Vegan eating continues its upward trend. How have restaurants and food producers responded?

From classic cheeseburgers to Wisconsin cheddar cheese and bacon at breakfast, many foods associated with American dining are made from animal products. A new trend is taking over, however, and it doesn’t always look kindly on these stateside classics: The plant-based and vegan food market has been growing steadily over the past few years, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

According to a recent study, the US vegan food market is growing at a rate of 11.4%, following 57% of consumers who have expressed a desire to increase their fruit and vegetable intake. Meat consumption is conversely on the decline.

Spring rolls being prepped in a kitchen.
An unrecognizable chef creating vegan dishes on a counter in a cafe kitchen.

This trend isn’t limited to the US, however – the global market is reported to have risen by more than 980% over the last decade. Demand for vegan food is on the rise in countries like the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Israel, Ireland, Canada, and Austria. Germany and France especially have seen a sharp decline in the consumption of animal products, and some producers in the US meat and dairy industries have seen a significant dip in sales as well.

What is fueling this shift toward plant-based and vegan eating?

There are several reasons food trends are shifting. Health was reported to be the largest factor driving this move away from animal products.  A report from Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) found that over 40% of Americans are considered obese, leading to problems like diabetes, hypertension, and various heart conditions in large part because of diet. Other factors include lactose intolerance, increased awareness of animal cruelty, and environmental concerns – nearly 65% of consumers agree that climate change can be mitigated by eating less meat (VegNews). Concerns about animal-borne diseases are also on the rise: As reported by Vegan Society in 2022, 1 in 4 people have reduced their use of animal products since

How will plant-based eating affect our restaurants?

Restaurateurs meeting this growing demand for plant-based foods are benefitting as a result. One estimate posits 2023 will be worth up to $40 billion for restaurant chains – large, small, and international – serving plant-based food by 2028, which has led to a surge of new options. Impossible Foods patties, the plant-based alternative to beef first popularized by David Chang’s world-renowned Momofuku, are now found on 6.4% of burger menus. This number is expected to double by 2026.

Vegetables and a plant based patty on a cutting board.
Vegan burgers, buns, tofu and vegetables on a wooden board ready for cooking

Many established restaurants with meat-focused menus have embraced the change as well – global chains like McDonalds and Burger King are working to include more plant-based options on their menus. Incorporating vegan options like non-dairy cheese and milk, and plant-based alternatives to familiar favorites, e.g., the Impossible Burger mentioned above, has become increasingly common.

The rapid expansion of this market too has created new jobs and increased income for cooks, servers, and other restaurant industry workers. This boost in income availability has helped address staffing shortage in the service industry across major US markets (read more about staffing shortages here: Automated Labeling Helps Restaurants Cope with Labor Crunch).

One concern, however, lies in food costs: While vegan options are becoming more affordable, recent figures indicate that the cost of vegan food is still outpacing that of other products, possibly coming to restrict the market and eventually limiting growth.

But continued demand for vegan and plant-based foods is benefitting farmers and food manufacturers who produce animal-free foods and manufacture plant-based proteins. This leads to an increase in availability and flexibility in pricing, making it easier for restaurants so include these items on their menus.

NCCO’s DateCodeGenie is committed to helping restaurants, convenience stores and kiosks navigate this changing tide, embrace changing markets and establish themselves at the forefront of food and drink trends. Using our custom labels, branding, nutrition information, and ingredient lists can be clearly marked so customers will always know what they’re getting – and who they’re getting it from.

Whether demand more animal alternatives will continue its upward swing remains to be seen. Given the recent figures, however, it looks like vegan and plant-based eating is here to stay. Perhaps we should get a plant-based burger for lunch?

Bon Appetit!