Vegetarianism - A Meatless Eating Experience

Download 567K pdf file ("vegetarianism.pdf")PDF
     Subscribe to our free E-Newsletter, "Agri-News" (formerly RTW This Week)Agri-News
This Week
 Background | Vegetarian definition | Factors affecting market | Market size | Recommendations


According to a report by the American Dietetic Association and Dieticians of Canada approximately 2.5 percent of adults in the United States and 4 percent of adults in Canada follow a vegetarian diet. The United States population over the age of twenty was almost 202 million in the year 2000. If 2.5 percent of this population is vegetarian then there should be a consumer population of over 5 million. With a Canadian population of over 23 million in 2000 this would give a possible vegetarian population of 927 thousand. This study also noted that about 2 percent of six to seventeen year old children and adolescents in the United States are vegetarians. This would amount to a market of a further possible 1 million people. Even people that are not strictly vegetarian report eating vegetarian meals. 20 to 25% of adults in the United States report that they eat four or more meatless meals weekly. According to Roy Kingsmith, director of marketing for Yves Veggie Cuisine 'When this company started, probably 90 percent of our customers were true vegetarians now, it's only 10 percent vegetarians and 90 percent consumers who are simply looking for an occasional 'healthier' meal.'iii

Vegetarian Definition

A vegetarian diet is defined as one that does not include meat, fish or fowl. Depending on the type of vegetarian diet some will consume eggs, cheese and milk and others will not. The American Dietetic Association lists the following three vegetarian diets:

  • lacto-ovo-vegetarian--dairy products and eggs
  • lacto-vegetarian-dairy products, but no eggs
  • vegan--no animal products of any type
Factors Affecting Market

Factors that may affect the number of vegetarians in the United States and Canada in the future include an increased interest in vegetarianism and the arrival of immigrants from countries where vegetarianism is commonly practiced. The People's Republic of China was the leading country of birth among individuals who immigrated to Canada in the 1990s. It was followed by India, the Philippines, the Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Taiwan. These seven Asian countries alone accounted for over 40% of all immigrants who came to Canada in the past decade. Although not all countries are strictly vegetarians there are religious practices such as Buddhism that involve a vegetarian diet. Even if not strictly vegetarian they do eat more of a plant based as opposed to an animal based diet.

The greater awareness of the link between diet and health are also factors driving this trend. This combined with the recommendations of associations such as the American Health Association, the Health and Stroke Foundation of Canada; the American Cancer Society who promotes a plant-based diet will all have an affect on this trend.

Market Size

The US market for vegetarian foods (foods like meat analogs, non-dairy milks, and vegetarian entrees that directly replace meat or other animal products) was estimated to be $1.5 billion in 2002, up from $310 million in 1996. This market is expected to nearly double by 2006 to $2.8 billion. Canadian sales of meat analogs more than tripled between 1997 and 2001.

Below is shown a pyramid that is displayed on the Vegetarian Times website. This pyramid promotes fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes (pulses) at every meal. This pyramid is similar in structure to the Canada Food Guide or the USDA food guide but shows what is important for vegetarians to consume.

Source : Vegetarian Times

There are many different areas in the market where vegetarian foods are needed. The retail market including grocery stores, natural health food stores, airlines, hotels/motels/restaurants, jails, hospitals, government personnel such as the army, navy etc., and school cafeterias are just some of the areas that could be serviced or approached about your product. An example of this growth is in the university and college cafeterias.

Schools cited in the survey as having the most progressive cafeterias include the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, New York University and Syracuse University.

Charles Stahler, co-director of the Vegetarian Resource Group, also said vegetarianism was rising at colleges, which are serving foods they never would have considered years ago.

"The proof is in the money," he said.

He said one major example of the trend could be seen at Johns Hopkins University that recently added a separate vegetarian station to its main undergraduate dining hall. The executive chef there, Cathy DeCarlo, said that at least half the diners were choosing items from the station. "We feel we're on the leading edge ... It's something we're pretty excited about," she said.

She said that in addition to providing vegetarian meals, they had also taken steps to educate students about the health benefits of meatless eating. The goal was to show students that "This (vegetarianism) is not a weird thing, it's a healthy option," she said. DeCarlo said that eating meatless meals had become so popular at the school that "it's even a bit prestigious."

Stahler said the demand for vegetarian meals at colleges had grown so much that schools found that distributors had not added selections fast enough. "We've heard of cases where college food service staff had to go to the local health food stores to buy soy milk or other items," he said. "This is a roadblock to institutions adding more vegetarian dishes." Another area to look at would be your local school cafeteria. With the bad press regarding the rising childhood obesity epidemic there may be an opportunity to work with school cafeterias to provide vegetarian meals, which are nutritious and low in calories.


The vegetarian market is growing and there are opportunities within this market for a wider variety of foods than what is currently available. Presently many of the vegetarian meals or products are made of soy. These are usually used as a substitute for meat protein. While soy based products may be the majority of products for this market now, there is room for other products possibly made out of pulses, field vegetables, grains or other plant-based material. Alberta has many grains and pulses available to create healthy meals.

When producing vegetarian dishes, the best approach is to feature the foods that will be acceptable to everyone-vegan food. Vegan (pure vegetarian) foods contain no egg, dairy, meat, fish, or poultry products, and do not include hidden animal products such as gelatin, lard, and beef broth. Vegans are the fastest growing segment of the vegetarian population. Ovo-lacto vegetarian foods do not contain meat, fish, and poultry products, but do include egg and dairy products. While vegan dishes will sell to everyone, ovo-lacto foods will not sell to vegans.

It would be important to speak with people familiar with the vegetarian lifestyle or a dietitian in order to become knowledgeable about their needs and to see what type of foods they would like to see created or that are healthy additions to their diets. There are also rules regarding the use of ingredients for a truly vegetarian meal. The rules basically are that you do not use any animal components to your meals. There are many vegetarian websites on the Internet that are more than happy to answer your emails regarding anything vegetarian. Just type in vegetarian on a search engine such as Google and you will get lists of websites dedicated solely to vegetarianism.

Some of the possibilities for food products for home consumption could include:
  • Fruit or vegetable drinks
  • Frozen or refrigerated entrees (pulse based products to supplement the array of soy based products available)
  • Frozen appetizers
  • Soups
  • Jams
  • Desserts
  • Deli items
  • Convenience foods - Look at a better variety of packaged salad mixes
The market is growing and Alberta producers should be looking at ways to service this market. With the emphasis on healthy eating growing the market is ready for some great vegetarian foods that will also take into consideration the busy lifestyles of consumers and the need for healthy food that doesn't take more than 20 to 30 minutes to prepare. This is the time limit that most busy consumers allow for the preparation of a sit down dinner at home before they are off and running again.

Sources - Retrieved from the world wide web on July 23, 2003 - Retrieved from the world wide web on July 23, 2003 - Meat Marketing and Technology, February 2003, page 47 - Retrieved from the world wide web August 20, 2003 - Retrieved from the world wide web on August 19, 2003 Retrieved from the world wide web on August 19, 2003 - Retrieved from the world wide web on July 23, 2003

Other Documents in the Series

  The Consumer Food Trend Series
Understanding Consumer Trends Can Present New Opportunities
Canadian Consumer Trends in Obesity and Food Consumption
Consumer Trends in Food Safety
Consumer Trends for Fruit and Vegetable Products
Consumer Trends in the Canadian Kosher Market
The Aging Consumer Population
Vegetarianism - A Meatless Eating Experience - Current Document
Consumer Market for Bone Health Benefits: Is it a waiting opportunity for the Alberta functional; food and nutraceuticals industries?
Market Forces in the Fruit and Vegetable Industry
Consumer Food Trends: Evaluation
For more information about the content of this document, contact Sarah Oliveira.
This document is maintained by Magda Beranek.
This information published to the web on June 28, 2004.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 9, 2011.