More Aussies than ever before are consuming a vegan or vegetarian diet since the outbreak of COVID-19, prompting the sales of plant-based products to skyrocket.
Whether people are trying to reduce their carbon footprint or are feeling more adventurous in the kitchen, there has undeniably been a massive swing towards vegetarianism and veganism in 2020.
A recent study conducted by culinary website Chef’s Pencil found Australia is now the second-most popular nation in the world for vegans, only behind the UK.
Big name celebrities are leading the trend, with many Hollywood A-listers vocal about their vegan lifestyles.
Zac Efron, Lizzo, Natalie Portman, Ariana Grande and Sir Paul McCartney are some of the international stars that swear by a veganism, while homegrown talent Ruby Rose, Portia Di Rossi and Teresa Palmer are also vocal advocates for a strict plant-based diet.
And it seems the proof is in the plant-based pudding, with eight out of the 21 winning products at the Product of the Year Awards sitting on the vegetarian or vegan shelf.
Product of the Year director Sarah Connelly said there has never been this many vegan and vegetarian winners in the award’s history.
“This is the first time in our Product of the Year Awards history that we’ve had this many meat-alternative and vegan products participate,” she said.
“And, successfully win an award, especially from surprising new brands such as 7-11 and V2 foods.
“COVID-19 definitely impacted all areas of our lives, with shopping experiences taking a massive hit in the early stages of the pandemic, but we have been truly impressed to see the way brands have adapted and expanded their offerings to give consumers more options across a wide range of categories to suit all tastes and lifestyles.”
Nutritionist Liv Kaplan echoes the sentiment and agrees that there has been a significant move toward a plant-based diet approach in 2020.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all (that people are buying and eating more vegan foods), I definitely saw this coming,” Ms Kaplan said.
“It’s been a big trend in the wellness community for years and I knew eventually it would become more mainstream.
“I think for the first time in ages people have had a big change to their routine and structure and it’s forced them to kind of evaluate their eating habits.”
Ms Kaplan said the change also comes down to the fact that people have more time on their hands to “explore more recipes and interesting cuisines”.
“And that’s a really important thing when you switch from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet,” she said.
“I don’t think anybody needs to go cold turkey and give up all animal-based foods, it’s not something that I recommend to everyone just to make that sudden switch, but small changes are good.
“Focus on that, incorporating more plants, rather than taking things out of your diet. I’d say do 75 per cent plants and 25 per cent meat.”
The response is backed by recent Roy Morgan research revealing that nearly 2.5 million Australians have either completely moved to a vegetarian diet or are close to doing so.
Industry experts also project that the meat-free sector will exceed $25 billion by 2030, however, they warn that a meat-free diet doesn’t necessarily lead to a healthy lifestyle or weight loss and balance is essential.
“With anything, it’s really important to look what’s in these meat-alternative products,” Ms Kaplan said.
“There are some that are amazing and then there are others that aren’t great.
“It’s always just better to use more fruits and vegetables in your diet rather than replace meat with ‘fake’ alternatives.”
Originally published as Dinner staple Aussies are ditching in droves due to COVID