Fact not fad: Why the vegan market is going from strength-to-strength in Australia

By Lester Wan

- Last updated on GMT

Australia is the third fastest-growing vegan market in the world, after the United Arab Emirates and China. ©GettyImages
Australia is the third fastest-growing vegan market in the world, after the United Arab Emirates and China. ©GettyImages
Forget throwing burgers on the barbie, Aussie consumers’ desire for vegan products shows no sign of sizzling out with analysts highlighting the ongoing surge in sales and product launches.

Euromonitor International has revealed that packaged vegan food in Australia had a retail value of AU$503m in 2016, and is projected to hit AU$535m this year.

The firm believes that Australia is the third fastest-growing vegan market in the world, after the United Arab Emirates and China.

In recent years, both market and consumer trends in Australia have reflected this trend

A Mintel Food and Drink report released last year said, based on the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), between 2014 and 2016 there was a 92% increase in the number of food products launched in Australia carrying a vegan claim, and an 8% increase in the number of products launched carrying a vegetarian claim.

Furthermore, as many as one in eight (12%) food products launched in Australia in 2016 carried a vegetarian claim, while 6% held a vegan claim. The agency said the rise in vegetarian and vegan-friendly launches comes as many Australian consumers have a growing appetite for meat-free foods.

“Although Australia is still one of the largest meat eating populations globally, health and environmental concerns, along with cost have changed Australians’ attitudes when it comes to meat consumption,” ​said Laura Jones, Trend and Innovation Consultant at Mintel.

“Australians have become more mindful in recent years of the amount of meat and the frequency of which they eat meat.”

Roy Morgan research showed that more than 2 million Australians identified as vegan or vegetarian in 2016. Meanwhile, Best in Australia​ said “vegan” is Australians’ most searched word on Google.

Daphne Kasriel-Alexander, consumer trends analyst at Euromonitor, said the growth of veganism has also “piqued the appetite” of the restaurant industry.

Australian publicity boosts

The commonly reported “influencing factors” for going vegan — aside from environmental or sustainability factors, which tend to be more industrial — are increased health consciousness, animal welfare concerns and publicity, including on social media platforms such as Instagram.

“Once, veganism was regarded as confined to cranks but increasingly it’s been adopted by a wide range of people, from the health-conscious, to those concerned with animal welfare or the environment. It’s even become cool, with celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Tobey Maguire, Jared Leto and Bill Clinton espousing a diet free of meat, fish, dairy and eggs, although for some it’s on a time-limited basis only,”​ said Kasriel-Alexander.

Growing media coverage is helping to take the vegan cause further.

On March 29, a feature-length vegan documentary, “Dominion”, premiered at a sold-out screening. The film is described as “a comprehensive account of the numerous ways animals are used and abused in Australia”​. 

The documentary is narrated by movie stars Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara.

Just days after, news media also reported that vegan cyclist Abdullah Zeinab just won the unofficial Indian Pacific Wheel Race across Australia. The 5,500km race took him 14 days to complete.

More controversial and ‘in-your-face’ is, unsurprisingly, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Australia.

The animal rights activist group recently posted several garish photos and videos regarding the abuse of cows at a New South Wales dairy farm.

PETA claimed the farm in question is a member of Norco, Australia’s oldest and second-largest dairy cooperative, whose products are sold in Australian supermarkets such as Coles, Woolworths, and Aldi. It said assorted Norco products are also exported to China, Japan, New Zealand and the Philippines.

Caution from DAA

Despite the rising trend of veganism and the increasing amount of vegan food products in Australia, the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) has warned that consumers following a vegan diet need to keep in mind the intake of some specific nutrients, specifically iron, vitamin B12, calcium and omega-3.

The DAA said veganism is continuing to grow worldwide. It cited search data from Google Trends showing an increase in interest in veganism from 2004 to 2018, with the top search countries being Israel, Australia, Canada, Austria and New Zealand.

“Greater prosperity globally might appear to suggest meat-eating will rise but environmental concerns and finite resources represent a weighty counterbalance, suggesting consumers will be cutting out or cutting down on their meat and dairy consumption in the future,” ​predicted Kasriel-Alexander.


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