Between 2012 and 2016, the number of Australian adults whose diet is all or almost all vegetarian rose from 1.7m people to almost 2.1m—or more than 11% of the country.
“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,” said 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 agree that they’re eating less red meat these days.”
In 2016, 12.4% of NSW residents said they were almost or entirely vegetarian, up from 9.5% in 2012. There was also a solid increase in Western Australia, with 10.9% of adults adopting a meat-free diet (up from 8.7% in 2012), and in South Australia (10.4%, up from 8.5%).
Tasmania retains the highest proportion of residents who eat little or no meat, while Queensland is least inclined towards vegetarianism.
Though Australia is known as a nation of meat-eaters—it overtook America last year with the highest per-capita meat consumption—it has one of the most vegetarian populations in the world, based on Roy Morgan’s figures.
The survey also found that Australians still tend to adopt a veggie diet for health or weight-loss reasons, with nearly half of Australian vegetarians saying they followed a low-fat diet and 37% admitting that they always think of the number of calories in food before eating it.
This may correspond to how the number of Australians with a body mass index that qualifies as overweight or obese drops from an average of over 60% to 45% among those whose diet is mostly or totally vegetarian.
Morris added that supermarkets and food outlets would be wise to revisit their vegetarian-friendly options to ensure they are catering adequately for a growing and potentially lucrative consumer segment.