Vegan and plant-based diets are on the rise in the United Kingdom and across the globe. Supermarkets and retailers are stocking up and upping their product ranges to cater to the growing market.
Even Veganuary, the global January campaign to get people to pledge to go on a vegan diet for the month, has grown significantly in 2021. As of now, more than 440,000 people have already signed-up for the 31-day vegan challenge, easily surpassing 2020’s total of 400,000.
With veganism on the up, we were curious about the state of veganism in the UK and the vegan food market. So, we’ve gathered some key facts and statistics about veganism and plant-based diets in the UK, including:
- How many people in the UK follow a meat-free diet
- Veganism by UK region
- Barriers to becoming vegan, such as attitudes and opinions
- How much a vegan diet costs
- The Value of the vegan and plant-based food market
- Household spend on plant-based diets
- And even more.
Here’s what we found:
The Rise of Veganism
How many vegans are there in the UK?
According to the latest research from the Vegan Society, as of 2019, there were 600,000 vegans in the UK, accounting for 1.16% of the population.
The UK’s current diet at the start of 2021
86% of the population are meat-eaters.
According to one survey, 86% of the population currently have meat in their diets. Of the plant-based and non-meat diets, the vegetarian diet is the most common (6%), followed by the pescatarian diet (5%) and then the vegan diet (3%). This means that around 9.4 million British adults currently follow a meat-free diet.
|Current diet||% of population|
The UK’s planned diet for 2021
26% of British people plan to ditch meat by the end of the year.
Combined with those who already follow a meat-free diet, there could be 17 million British people (26%) who are vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian by the end of this year. If those who plan to ditch meat follow through with their diet, around 1 in 10 people in the UK (11%) will be following a vegetarian diet, 8% will follow a pescatarian diet and 7% will be following a vegan diet.
|Intentions by the end of 2021||% of population|
What region of the UK has the most vegans?
Vegans in the UK (by region)
The largest share of vegans in the UK is in Inner London, with 4%. Parts of Yorkshire and Humber and Outer London tie for second, each with 2% of the share of vegans in the UK.
|Region||Share of population|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||2%|
|East of England||1%|
|South West *||0%|
Which generations are ditching meat?
Share of people on a meat-free diet in the UK (By Generation)
Over 25% of generation Z is ditching meat in 2021, while about 15% of both Millennials and Generation X are doing the same.
|Generation||% ditching meat in 2021|
|Generation Z (18-23)||25.9%|
|Generation X (43-54)||14.8%|
|Baby boomers (55-73)||5.2%|
|Silent generation (74+)||4.2%|
What are the reasons for going vegan?
Reasons for wanting to ditch meat in the UK
51% of respondents said they were vegan for ethical motivations, while 46.6% said it was because it contributed to a healthier lifestyle. 29.2% of UK respondents said they were vegan for religious reasons. Just 16.1% of people said allergies were the reason for going vegan.
Why do people stop being vegan?
The main reason for abandoning the vegan diet in the UK
The biggest reason for quitting the vegan diet by UK respondents was the inconvenience, whether it’s time, lack of choice, or availability, with 29.8% responding that way. This was followed by other health reasons (22.2%) and then temptation, or lack of willpower and motivation (14.2%).
3.6% of respondents simply said "cheese".
|Reasons||Share of respondents|
|Inconvenient - time consuming/lack of choice/availability||29.8%|
|Health - other*||22.2%|
|Temptation/lack of willpower/motivation||14.2%|
|Health - protein & energy levels*||4.4%|
|Health - disordered eating*||2.7%|
Online Interest in Veganism
Most popular vegan and vegetarian search terms in the United Kingdom
From January to February 2019, there were about 110,000 searches for "vegetarian recipes" in the UK. The second most popular search term was "vegan recipes", which was searched around 90,000 times
|Search term||Average UK searches*|
|Vegan cake recipe||14,800|
|Healthy vegetarian recipes||12,100|
|Are oats gluten free||9,900|
|What do vegans eat||8,100|
|Best vegan recipes||4,400|
|What is a vegan diet||3,600|
|Best vegan cookbooks||1,900|
|What foods are gluten free||1,000|
|What chocolate is vegan||720|
|Why should I go vegan||110|
Top 10 countries with the highest interest in the term “Vegan” on Google (Over the past 12 months)
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
- United States
Barriers to Going Vegan
What stops people from going vegan?
Health concerns about becoming vegan in the UK (By Gender)
More women (52.9%) than men (47.1%) reported having health concerns about becoming a vegan.
Perception of Vegans
10% of respondents in the UK said they have a broadly negative view of vegans
|Perception||Share of respondents|
Opinions on veganism among shoppers
Around 33% of polled British shoppers said that there was too much hype about veganism and plant-based eating at the time of a survey. Furthermore, 27% wished vegans were not so aggressive in pushing their views.
25.1% feel that the meat industry is not doing a good enough job addressing concerns about animal welfare, health and sustainability.
About 18% were confused about whether or not a plant-based diet is healthier and more ethical than eating meat.
Where are the most vegans in the world?
In 2016, 9% of respondents from Asia Pacific followed a vegan diet, while people from North America and Europe were the least likely to be vegan, with just 2% of respondents from each place indicating that they follow a vegan diet.
|Share of respondents|
The Vegan Market
- In 2018, the UK produced more new vegan products than any other country, knocking Germany off its number one spot.
- In 2018, the global vegan food market was worth $12.7 billion and is on track to reach $24.06 billion by 2025.
Vegan Foods on the rise:
- Vegan food trends show a notable one-year increase in sales for vegan yoghurt, which rose by 39%, vegan cheese, 19%, and vegan ice cream, 27%.
- The global market for alternative dairy drinks is currently $18.12 billion.
- In 2010, this industry was at just $7.4 billion, making this a dramatic increase. By 2024, it’s projected to reach $34.5 billion.
How much is the vegetarian food & drink industry in the UK worth?
Sales of vegetarian food & drink products and plant-based alternatives in the UK
Sales of vegetarian food and drink products in the UK were £657 million in 2017. When the category is combined with plant-based alternatives sales, sales increased to £885 million.
In 2018, the estimated retail sales of both came to one billion pounds.
|Year||Vegetarian products||Vegetarian & plant-based alternatives|
How much do UK consumers spend on chilled vegetarian products?
Chilled vegetarian foods: Market value in the UK
In 2019, about £124 million was spent by consumers on chilled vegetarian products in the United Kingdom, up from almost £99 million in 2018.
|Spend in million GBP|
|29 Dec 2019||123.93|
|30 Dec 2018||98.51|
|31 Dec 2017||82.44|
|01 Jan 2017||73.66|
|03 Jan 2016||65.61|
|01 Feb 2015||58.12|
|02 Feb 2014||54.71|
|03 Feb 2013||51.07|
|08 Jan 2012||47.45|
|25 Dec 2011||48.15|
|26 Dec 2010||48.33|
|27 Dec 2009||45.28|
|30 Nov 2008||48.24|
How much does a Vegan diet cost?
On average, the vegan diet costs £2,073 per year.
|Diet||Cost per year|
|Diet that includes meat||£2,002|
How much do European households spend each year on meat substitutes?
Average household expenditure on meat substitutes
Of the European countries considered, Swedish households spend the most on meat substitutes (15.57€), followed closely by the United Kingdom (15.37€). Households in the Netherlands spend just under 13.50€ on meat substitutes in 2018.
|Average household expenditure in euros|