We know that plant-based eating is on the rise. Between 2004 and 2019, the number of Americans identifying as vegan increased by more than 3000% and it’s estimated that around 9.7 million people in the U.S. are adhering to a fully plant-based lifestyle.
But today, plant-based food options cater to anyone and everyone. Whether you’re pouring oat milk in your morning coffee, munching down a pulled jackfruit burger at a music festival, or sprinkling vegan cheese onto a steaming bowl of pasta, the chances are you’ve enjoyed a plant-based meal. In fact, flexitarians and meat-eaters are largely responsible for driving the growth of the vegan food market, with 98% of consumers who regularly buy meat alternatives also buying some animal products. According to a recent report from Food Navigator USA, around 39% of Americans are actively trying to include some plant-based meals in their diets.
As the number of people following plant-based or flexitarian diets steadily increases, so too does the demand for nutritious, delicious, and creative plant-based meal options. In 2018, the global vegan food market size was valued at $14.2 billion and is expected to reach $31.4 billion by 2026. What key factors are influencing the rise of plant-based eating and cooking?
The top four benefits associated with plant-based eating and cooking
It wasn’t so long ago that a restaurant menu would feature one vegan option – and it would likely be a very limp and very dry veggie burger or some kind of salad. But today, following a plant-based diet often means having several delicious meal choices at a number of cafes, restaurants, and specialty stores. Brands are focusing on creating delectable meat and dairy alternatives for everyone.
People following a plant-based diet frequently argue that plant-based meals are more delicious than their meaty counterparts, thanks to the extra effort and care that has gone into creating them.
There are many health benefits associated with cutting down on meat and dairy intake.
Plant-based diets are more likely to be high in fiber and rich in essential nutrients that can strengthen your immune system and keep you fit and healthy. Studies suggest that following a plant-based diet may reduce the risk of heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, inflammatory disease, high cholesterol, and some mental health illnesses.
In addition, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that consuming more fruits and vegetables is associated with a 20% reduction in the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.
Many proponents of veganism and plant-based diets cite sustainability as a key driving factor. Agriculture is currently the leading cause of deforestation and biodiversity loss and consumers today are far more mindful of reducing their carbon footprint. Documentaries on the subject, including the controversial Netflix megahits Seaspiracy and Cowspiracy, have served to raise more awareness about the environmental impact of our diets and inspired more people to pursue plant-based lifestyles.
At present, agriculture accounts for around 50% of the world’s habitable land, with most of that being used to raise livestock for dairy and meat. Around 70% of the world’s freshwater supplies are being used for agriculture, and around one-third of that is for livestock feed. Meanwhile, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock production is responsible for around 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
As the global population grows, producing enough food in our existing systems (that largely depend on livestock farming) will become increasingly challenging. This could drive more people towards plant-based eating.
Taking a stand against animal cruelty and exploitation is another priority for those who choose to follow a plant-based diet.
There is a growing awareness of some of the unethical practices within livestock farming – particularly in the dairy and egg industry, which was historically considered less cruel.
Animal welfare activists oppose practices such as factory farming, the culling of male chicks in the egg industry, and newborn calves being separated from their mothers in the dairy industry.
Introducing our plant-based food initiative – Mindful Fork
Fresh Ideas has partnered with the Humane Society of the United States to launch Mindful Fork. This creative plant-based food initiative features a range of innovative menu items spanning lunch and dinner entrees, quick-service options, allergen-friendly dishes, and desserts.
These creative and delicious dishes will satisfy everyone from diehard meat-eaters to flexitarians to vegans and we’re excited to expand the program with the goal of providing one plant-based offering for every animal-based option.