According to Roy Morgan Research, a nationwide trend that now sees 11.2% of Australians whose diet is all or almost all vegetarian has been most striking in NSW, which has seen a 30% growth in non-animal diets.
The proportion of vegetarians in the state has increased to 12.4% this year from 9.5% in 2012, while 10.9% of the adult population in Western Australia is vegetarian—up from 8.7%.
Tasmania has seen little change over the last four years, but remains the most vegetarian of all Australia’s states at 12.7% (up from 12.2% in 2012). Conversely, Queensland retains the distinction of being the state least inclined towards vegetarianism, at 9.2%.
Australia’s vegetarians are more likely to live in capital cities than in regional or rural areas, Roy Morgan found. Given NSW’s veggie-friendly status, it came as no surprise that Sydney had the highest proportion of residents who eat little or no meat (14.4%); ahead of Hobart (13.3%) and Melbourne (12.7%).
The survey found that many Australians adopt a vegetarian diet for health or to lose weight. Nearly half of respondents who eat little or no meat agreed with the statement that “A low-fat diet is a way of life for me”—well above the population average of 31.9%. Just under 37% said that they always thought of the number of calories in the food they eat, compared with the national average of 25.2%.
Health statistics bear this view out: while 60.7% of Australian adults have a body mass index that qualifies them as being overweight or obese, this figure drops to 45.4% for those whose diet is mostly or totally vegetarian.
“Whether people are embracing a less meat-heavy diet for health, environmental or animal-welfare reasons, the fact remains that this trend looks set to continue,” says Norman Morris of Roy Morgan Research.
“Not only has there been an increase in near or total vegetarianism across Australia, but almost 9.9m Aussie adults—or 53.4%—say that they are eating less red meat these days.
“If they have not already, supermarkets and eateries would be wise to revisit their vegetarian-friendly options to ensure they are catering adequately for this growing—and potentially lucrative—consumer segment.”
Moreover, Australians whose diet is largely or completely vegetarian are 20% more likely than average to spend more than A$40 (US$31) per week on fruit and vegetables, 93% more likely to buy organic food whenever they can, and 14% more likely to try new types of food, Morris added.