In research conducted in 2015 and published this week, 10.3% of New Zealanders over the age of 14 said they were always or mostly vegetarian—a figure up from 8.1% four years earlier.
While the incidence of vegetarianism has increased across all major demographic segments, growth has been sharpest within the 14-34 age group (up 63%), on the North Island (up 32%), and among men (up 63%), Roy Morgan Research found.
The rate of vegetarianism drops sharply among 35-49 year-olds, however, perhaps because it is harder to maintain a non-meat diet when there are kids to feed.
Women remain slightly more likely than men to try to abstain from meat (11.3%), while just 7.8% of South Islanders eat only or almost only vegetarian food.
“As more and more Kiwis at least attempt to live a vegetarian lifestyle, it will become increasingly important for a range of businesses—from supermarkets and their suppliers, to takeaway and fast food outlets—to understand this group,” said John La Rosa of Roy Morgan Research, adding that New Zealanders was still meat-lovers.
“In fact, almost half of New Zealand’s vegetarian grocery buyers purchase some form of fresh meat during the week. Supermarkets in particular will need to ensure they can cater to these vegetarian meat-buyers, providing organic, humanely sourced and trustworthy options.”
Yet the research also shows that vegetarians are well over twice as likely as the average Kiwi to avoid dairy foods whenever possible—perhaps as part of a stricter vegan diet—or to try to buy only organic food.
“However they also are big consumers of frozen or chilled ready-prepared meals and takeaway foods who say they don’t have time to spend cooking,” La Rosa added.
Recent months have seen some highs and lows for New Zealand’s growing vegetarian population. Late last year, a Change.org petition called for Countdown to introduce a vegan aisle, though the supermarket chain refused.
Meanwhile, Z Energy’s new vegan pie had become a big hit—until it came out in the new year that its pastry contained just a pinch of ground-up poultry feathers.