According to Chef’s Pencil, which compiled the list based on Google Trends data, Australians showed the highest levels of interest in veganism worldwide based on their internet searches.
“In 2018, searches in the Veganism category, which comprises vegan-related searches made in any language (e.g. ‘veganism’, ‘vegan restaurants’, ‘vegan rezepte’), surpassed by a wide margin searches made in previous years,” wrote the site.
“The popularity of vegan-related searches was 11% higher than 2017 and 35% higher compared to 2016.”
The site used Google-assigned Vegan Popularity Scores to determine the countries and cities that showed interest in a particular topic.
Australia emerged at the top with a Vegan Popularity Score of 100, beating its closest competitor United Kingdom by 2 points. New Zealand obtained a score of 87.
This is in line with the growing number of food companies in the region which are becoming increasingly vegan-friendly.
New Zealand plant-based protein company Sunfed Meats is one of these, with products made from pea protein and claiming to be soy-free, gluten-free and GMO-free, as well as boasting the ‘cleanest most minimalist ingredient deck on the global market’.
The company is looking to Australia as its next target market, and as it is it already sees large volumes of demand.
“We have far more demand than we can meet from all sides of the business: retail, wholesale and fast food, and it keeps growing,” Sunfed Founder and CEO Shama Lee told FoodNavigator-Asia.
The popularity of the vegan lifestyle may be showing a very real effect on traditional dairy and meat industries as well.
Australian dairy supplier Murray Goulburn, which supplies to brands such as Devondale and Liddell, reported a 22% sales drop for milk in 2017, whereas numbers from soybean product manufacturer predicted a tentative future for New Zealand’s meat industry, with 25% of New Zealanders expected to halt meat consumption by 2025.
Euromonitor International reported that Australia was the world’s third fastest growing market for vegan products in 2018, expected to reach some US$215mn by 2020 from its current US$136mn.
A 2016 Roy Morgan survey revealed that the number of New Zealanders that switched to an all- or almost all- vegetarian diet between the years 2011-2015 grew by some 27%, mainly due to more men (63%) changing their diets.
Why the interest in veganism?
According to Newsweek, veganism as a lifestyle is growing rapidly in popularity mainly due to rising awareness of its benefits for both health and sustainability.
Various studies have theorised that reducing or ending the consumption of meat and dairy will not only help the planet but also tackle health issues. A 2018 study published in Science stated that going vegan would reduce global farmland use by over 75%, which would in turn lead to a signigicant reduction in environmental impact.
The other pressing reason is rising numbers of cruelty claims in the meat industry, popularised by documentaries such as Cowspiracy and Earthlings. In March last year, McDonald’s was called out by six animal protection groups in the United States for animal cruelty.