More and more restaurants and companies are offering vegetarian and vegan meals. For example, Subway is testing a vegan burger in Florida, and Ben and Jerry's recently released a vegan ice cream. But how many people are interested in vegetarian and vegan meals?
To help answer this question, VRG commissioned Harris Poll to conduct a nationally representative online poll of 2,015 adults aged 18 and over. We asked:
Which of the following, if any, best describes your eating behavior?
We considered those that never eat meat, fish, seafood or poultry; plus those that never eat meat, fish, seafood, poultry, dairy, or eggs, as vegetarian. We classified that second category of vegetarians who don't eat dairy or eggs also as vegan. Because we use the word "never" and don't just ask if a person considers him/herself vegetarian, our numbers may be lower than others. Be wary of comparing to polls in other countries that ask if you are vegetarian or vegan, since people may self define differently. We did not ask about honey.
Thirty seven percent of the population always or sometimes eats vegetarian meals when eating out. About three percent of the population is vegetarian (including vegans) all the time, and about five percent always eat vegetarian or vegan meals when eating out.
Since thirty seven percent of the country eats at least some vegetarian meals when eating out, this has strong implications for food companies and restaurants. There is incentive for producing vegetarian dishes as there is demand from over one third of the population. However, based on our other research outside this poll, it's not enough just to offer meatless items. Businesses also have to cater to various needs, which may include price, health, convenience, source of ingredients, taste, religious requirements, etc. And since there is a large segment which did not say they consume vegetarian meals, marketing is more complex because of such different audiences.
This survey was conducted online within the United States between March 16 and 18, 2016 among 2,015 adults ages 18 and older by Harris Poll on behalf of VRG via its Quick Query omnibus product. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, the words "margin of error" are avoided as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in our surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the online panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
Over the last 5 decades, Harris Polls have become media staples. With comprehensive experience and precise technique in public opinion polling, along with a proven track record of uncovering consumers' motivations and behaviors, The Harris Poll has gained strong brand recognition around the world. The Harris Poll offers a diverse portfolio of proprietary client solutions to transform relevant insights into actionable foresight for a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer packaged goods.
With U.S. adults 18 and over numbering about 245 million, we can estimate the number of vegetarians (including vegans) in the U.S. adult population, based on this poll, to be approximately eight million adults. About half of vegetarians were also vegan. Approximately 3.7 million U.S. adults are vegan; 4.3 million are vegetarian but not vegan.
PEOPLE WHO NEVER EAT MEAT, FISH, SEAFOOD OR POULTRY (Total number of vegetarians, including vegans.)
3.3% Total* (About one half of the vegetarians are also vegan. Vegans also don't consume dairy and eggs, as well as not eating, meat, fish, seafood, or poultry.)
|3.2% of U.S. adult males||are vegetarian|
|3.5% of U.S. adult females||are vegetarian|
|5.4% of adults living in the Northeast||are vegetarian**|
|2.3% of adults living in the South||are vegetarian|
|2.3% of adults living in the Midwest||are vegetarian|
|3.7% of adults living in the West||are vegetarian|
|5.3% of U.S. adults ages 18-34||are vegetarian|
|3.1% of U.S. adults ages 35-44||are vegetarian|
|2.2% of U.S. adults ages 45-54||are vegetarian|
|2.7% of U.S. adults ages 55-64||are vegetarian|
|1.8% of U.S. adults ages 65 plus||are vegetarian|
|3% of U.S. adults who identify as Black||are vegetarian|
|3% of U.S. adults who identify as Hispanic||are vegetarian|
* Though you can't really compare polls year to year because of sampling error, this year we found out 3.3% of respondents were vegetarian (including vegan), while last year we came up with 3.4% in a Harris Poll.
** The Northeast Includes
CT, DE, DC, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, and WV.
The Midwest includes
IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, SD, and WI.
The South includes
AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.
The West includes
AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, NV, NM, OR, UT, WY, and WA.
PEOPLE WHO ALWAYS OR SOMETIMES EAT MEALS WITHOUT MEAT, FISH, OR POULTRY WHEN EATING OUT (INCLUDING VEGETARIANS AND VEGANS)
|15%||Sometimes or always eats vegan meals when eating out.|
|32%||Ages 65 plus|
*** Though you can't really compare polls year to year because of sampling error and the difference in the poll, this year we found out 37% of the population always or sometimes eats vegetarian (including vegan) meals when eating out, while last year in our Harris Poll we found that 36% of the population (including vegetarians and vegans) ate vegetarian meals (including vegan) one or more times per week.
If we look at what percentage of the survey respondents come from a state and compare that to the percentage of respondents eating vegetarian meals who come from that state, we find the numbers are similar. The one outlier was New York, with 6% of respondents from New York, but 9% of those surveyed sometimes or always eating vegetarian meals when eating out from New York.
|SECTION OF THE COUNTRY IN OUR SURVEY||TOTAL||% OF ALWAYS OR SOMETIMES EATS VEGAN MEALS WHEN EATING OUT||% OF ALWAYS OR SOMETIMES EATS VEGETARIAN MEALS (INCLUDING VEGAN) WHEN EATING OUT|
It seems compared to percentage of population, generally each section of the country proportionately contributes to the number of people eating vegan and vegetarian meals out, though the Northeast has a little higher percentage of people sometimes or always eating vegetarian and vegan meals out.
For information on more polls, see http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/faq.htm#poll