01.09.2016 Nutrition

Vegetarianism on the Rise

Meat-free Mondays are just one sign of a trend that’s steadily gaining traction in Australia-vegetarianism

Between 2012 and 2016, the number of Australian adults whose diet is all or almost all vegetarian has risen from 1.7 million people (or 9.7% of the population) to almost 2.1 million (11.2%), the latest findings from Roy Morgan Research reveal. While it is a nationwide trend, the shift towards vegetarianism has been most striking in New South Wales, where there has been a 30% growth in this kind of diet.

As of March 2016, 12.4% of people living in NSW agreed that ‘The food I eat is all, or almost all, vegetarian’, up from 9.5% back in 2012. There was also a solid increase in Western Australia, with 10.9% of adults adopting a meat-free (or meat-minimal) diet (up from 8.7% in 2012), and in South Australia (10.4%, up from 8.5%).

As it did in 2012, Tasmania leads the nation with the highest proportion of residents who eat little or no meat (12.7%, up from 12.2%), while Queensland (9.2%, up from 8.3%) retains the distinction of being the state least inclined towards vegetarianism.

Australia’s vegetarians (and those who eat an almost vegetarian diet) are more likely to live in capital cities than in regional or rural areas. Given NSW’s vege-friendly status, it’s hardly surprising that Sydney is the capital with the greatest proportion of residents who eat little or no meat (14.4%); ahead of Hobart (13.3%) and Melbourne (12.7%).

Good for the waistline?

As Roy Morgan Research has explored in the past, many Australians adopt a vegetarian diet for health and/or weight-loss reasons – and this hasn’t changed. Nearly half (48.7%) of Aussies 18+ who eat little or no meat agree that ‘A low-fat diet is a way of life for me’ (well above the population average of 31.9%) and 36.7% agree that ‘I always think of the number of calories in the food I’m eating’ (compared with the 25.2% national average).

And it seems they’re on to something: while 60.7% of Australian adults have a Body Mass Index that qualifies as overweight or obese, this figure drops to 45.4% of those whose diet is mostly or totally vegetarian.

A spokesperson forRoy Morgan research said the figures indicated the trend was set to continue, regardless of whether vegetarianism had been embraced for health, environment and animal welfare reasons.

“ Not only has there been an increase in near or total vegetarianism across Australia, but almost 9.9 million Aussie adults (53.4%) agree that they’re ‘eating less red meat these days’,” he said.“Supermarkets and eateries would be wise to revisit their vegetarian-friendly options to ensure they are catering adequately for this growing – and potentially lucrative -- consumer segment.”

The research also shows Australians whose diet is largely or completely vegetarian are 20% more likely than average to spend more than $40 per week on fruit and vegetables, 93% more likely to buy organic food whenever they can, and 14% more likely to try new types of food.

Nearly 30% of people who fall within Roy Morgan’s Fit & Fab persona eat little or no meat. Based primarily in inner city neighbourhoods, Fit & Fab tend to be young, sociable, sporty and always on the go. While they’re not averse to some serious partying, they are also careful to balance their action-packed lifestyle with a healthy diet – which is where vegetarian food would come in.

In contrast, vegetarianism is frequently a cultural choice for the segment known as New Australians, nearly one third of whom follow a diet free of or low in meat. Consisting largely of Indian, Chinese and other Asian immigrants living in outer suburban areas, New Australians are well educated, socially connected and in the early stages of their careers.

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