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Vegan Statistics – New Data Investigation For 2020

Posted by Eliot Cunningham on

How many vegans are in the world in 2020, and how many vegans are in the United States alone?

If you are a committed vegan, or even someone curious about this lifestyle, you might have found yourself wondering just how popular it really is.

And how true the official statistics are.

Here we break down the figures so far to give you an extensive overview of the current state of veganism, from how it got to the mainstream to what to expect in 2020.

How Vegan Statistics Are Estimated

So, how many vegans are there and what is the most vegan country in the world? The answer to this question is unfortunately not that straightforward. To this day, it’s not possible to find an official, peer-reviewed study on world vegan demographics.

The cues that we do get to help us understand the popularity of veganism around the world are, for the most part, related to cultural trends, consumer habits, and local polls featuring extremely small sample sizes. But wait, no need to jump off this page just yet! These factors are still worthy of consideration if we intend to broadly assess the extent to which veganism has entered people’s consciousness.

Plant-Based & Vegetarian Eaters Data Issues

Vegans and vegetarians are constantly lumped together when conducting vegan statistics polls.

Vegetarianism has been around since Ancient Greek times, playing an important role in several religions and national customs. It is safe to say that there are more vegetarians in the world than vegans.

The inclusion of vegetarians in vegan statistics is bound to skew research findings, as veganism and vegetarianism are not interchangeable lifestyles.

While self-identifying vegetarians largely just avoid the consumption of meat and fish, vegans choose not to partake in any form of animal exploitation. This includes not purchasing or consuming dairy products, eggs, honey, or any other animal byproduct such as leather or wool.

This brings us to another important distinction that is often neglected when conducting vegan statistics studies: the difference between vegans (or “ethical vegans”) and dietary vegans (or “plant-based eaters”).

As the meaning of being vegan goes beyond dietary choices alone, encompassing all things cruelty-free from clothing to toiletries, we are left to wonder just how many of these surveys’ participants believe in and follow a fully ethical vegan lifestyle.

Before this distinction is made clear and explicit within the studies, it might never be possible to fully research the number of vegans in the world.

Under Research Issues

Veganism is a growingly popular, yet under-researched trend.

The sample sizes used to conduct vegan statistics polls are not only too small to be able to give us real demographics, but also often limited to arbitrary age groups and nations.

The fact that veganism can mean different things for different people, largely depending on their cultural background and nationality, also prevents the vegan statistics that we do have from being accurate.

Considering that not all vegans stay vegan until the bitter end, vegan statistics might even change on a monthly basis!

So, as a general rule of thumb, the most conservative estimates will be the most precise.

What Percent Of The World is Currently Vegan?

The easy answer to this question is that 8% of the world population identifies as vegan, vegetarian, or something in between.

But if we take the vegetarians and plant-based eaters out of the equation, what are we left with?

Let’s compare these findings to older survey results conducted by Ipsos MORI in 2018. According to these vegan statistics, vegans make up 3% of the global population.

Does that number seem incredibly high to you? The reason for that is the sample size of the study, which we mentioned to be an ongoing issue when looking at vegan statistics.

This survey was in fact based on only 28 countries around the world, although quite evenly distributed throughout the continents.

If we keep our estimates on the more conservative side, we can predict that in late 2019 the number of vegans in the world was closer to 2% of the population.

Veganism By Country

Let’s go more in depth with some 2019 data from Google Trends.

The word ‘vegan’ has seen a steady increase in popularity throughout the year, peaking around the month of December (spoiler alert, the number gets even bigger on January 2020).

What countries have seen the biggest interest in the plant-based lifestyle in 2019? Here is the top 10 according to Google Trends:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. Australia
  3. New Zealand
  4. Canada
  5. Ireland
  6. United States
  7. Germany
  8. Netherlands
  9. Sweden
  10. Austria

Looking at these research trends can be an incredibly useful tool to start gauging where the vegan hotspots of the world are.

Chances are, however, that the countries with the largest percentage of vegans didn’t even make the top of this list.

The interest in veganism is not necessarily related to the real number of self-identified vegans in the country, but it is still a factor to be kept in mind for cross-reference.

Developed Nations

Let’s take a closer look at the countries that have shown the biggest rise in veganism in the Western world, from movement leaders to unsung plant-based heroes.

United States

According to the latest vegan statistics for 2019, vegans in the United States account for around 2% of the population. In addition to that, sales of plant-based foods were valued at around 4.5 billion dollars, showing an increase of over 30% from 2017. Finally, the city of Portland, Oregon, is internationally renowned as the vegan capital of the world.

United Kingdom

The term veganism was first coined in the United Kingdom, and 2018 figures for the United Kingdom report a percentage of vegans around the 1.16% mark. When it comes to both interest and lifestyle adoption, the U.K. has also shown the biggest growth throughout 2019, putting it at the forefront of the global movement. In the month of January alone, the Veganuary project for 2020 exceeded its target with 400,000 new sign-ups.

Australia

As of 2010 polls, vegans in Australia were believed to make up around 2% of the population. Many things have changed since then, with Aussies taking the number one spot in 2018 as the most interested in veganism worldwide. In the country with the biggest meat consumption in the world, this is not easy feat.

Italy

The whole of Europe is one of the primary consumers of plant-based meat substitutes, with 39% of meat alternatives sales occurring in the continent.

Still, it is the land of parmesan and mozzarella that boasts one of the highest percentages of vegans in Europe, with vegetarians and vegans making up about 8% of the population. Italians have a big advantage when it comes to adopting veggie and vegan lifestyles: an abundance of pulses and veg as the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet.

Developing Nations

It’s not only European and English-speaking countries leading the way. Plant-based diets are often the norm in developing countries, often due to religious practices as well as the lower costs of production needed to grow vegan food.

Ethiopia

Veganism and vegetarianism has always been incredibly widespread in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia’s main religion, Orthodox Christianity, dictates monthly “fasting days” with animal products completely off the menu. Most of Ethiopian cuisine is therefore fully plant-based, and a vegan’s delight.

Thailand

Thailand’s Buddhist tradition is also the main reason why the Land of Smiles is so vegan-friendly. Even those who do not follow the strict dietary rules of Buddhism and Jainism are raised to consider plant-based diets as normal, and even healthy. A far cry from how they are often viewed in the West!

Brazil

Brazil is definitely an outlier in this category. Its traditional meat-heavy diet has slowly started to turn more plant-based in recent years, with 2018 reports showing a whopping 14% of the population identifying as vegan or vegetarian.

Countries With The Highest Percentage Of Vegans

What are the countries that consistently show up as the ones with the largest percentages of vegans and vegetarians? There are no European countries or United States in sight - these countries are all Asian giants: India, Israel and Taiwan.

India

Now, India is famously known for its high percentage of vegetarians, who mostly adopt the lifestyle due to religious reasons. However, putting the ghee aside, Ipsos Global findings show that 19% of the population identifies as vegan.

Israel

Israel, on the other hand, is considered by many the country with the largest concentration of vegans with a whopping 5% of the country’s small population avoiding all animal products, mostly for ethical reasons.

Taiwan

Taiwan is yet another veggie and vegan heaven, with over 12% of the population following a strict vegetarian diet that excludes all animal products. This is another example of cultural and religious traditions giving way to a plant-based revolution.

Cities With Highest Percentage Of Vegans (Vegan-Friendly Cities)

Another method of gauging the popularity of vegan lifestyles is looking at the cities with the highest concentration of fully vegan restaurants.

On the occasion of its 20th anniversary online, the popular vegan directory HappyCow has compiled a list of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, making for a quite compelling – not to mention tasty - vegan travel guide.

According to their data, the top 10 cities with the highest number of vegan restaurants are:

  1. London, United Kingdom
  2. New York City, United States
  3. Berlin, Germany
  4. Los Angeles, United States
  5. Toronto, Canada
  6. Warsaw, Poland
  7. Portland, United States
  8. Bangkok, Thailand
  9. Tel Aviv, Israel
  10. Prague, Czech Republic

Are you surprised by the results?

The country with the highest concentration of vegans, Israel, comes only at number nine, while Taiwan is left off the list altogether.

Some of these findings are instead consistent with the vegan statistics we have explored above: the United States still comes out on top as the only country listed more than once, while Europe and the U.K. also enjoy a considerable representation.

The truth is that the vegan-friendliness of a country doesn’t always represent the real size of the country’s vegan population, nor does the vegan-friendliness of a specific cuisine.

Is Veganism Growing?

2019 was the “Year of the vegan”, as dubbed by The Economist.

So, what is the future of veganism looking like in 2020? Will its apparently incessant rise in popularity slow down anytime soon? All signs point to a big no.

The number of vegans in the world is expected to continue rising with each year, as a matter of fact.

The Worldwide Growth Of Veganism

Google searches for “vegan diet” and “veganism” are soaring, the number of sign ups to the popular Veganuary project keeps rising with each year, fast food chains increasingly cater to vegan customers.

Plant-based meat and dairy substitutes have experienced outstanding growth, in both investment and retail sales.

Unsurprisingly, it is only a minority of consumers who are fully plant-based eaters – the majority of vegan alternatives buyers is overwhelmingly omnivore. Still, this is nothing but good news to those hoping for a more vegan 2020, as meat and dairy reduction is often the first step in adopting a completely plant-based lifestyle. When they said Beyond Meat was the start of a food revolution, they really had their facts straight early on!

Vegan Statistics 2019 vs 2020

How many vegans are in the world in 2020? The main takeaway is that we cannot give any accurate percentage, but we can easily predict broader dietary trends when looking at the bigger picture.

Between 2017 and 2019, the U.S. plant-based food industry grew by 40%, while global forecasts indicate that plant-based alternatives might grow to USD 27.9 billion by 2025.

So as demand for plant-based foods keeps growing in both Europe and the United States, popular documentaries such as Netflix’s “The Game Changers” and “What the Health” continue to provide unprecedented educational resources to the masses.

It is not unreasonable to say that by the end of 2020, the number of vegans in the world might confidently jump to 3% of the population.

All signs point to 2020 being the biggest year in veganism yet, and we’ll be there to pin down the numbers!

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