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Source: Proagrica news release

London - A new study reveals that two fifths (39%) of US consumers have considered going vegetarian or vegan since the pandemic began. Nearly a fifth (17%) ate less meat and 28% upped their alt-protein (such as soya and plant-based) during 2020.

Overall, 20% of consumers identified health concerns as the primary driver for these choices, and males are twice as likely as females to become vegan or vegetarian for this reason.

The survey of more than 1,000 US adults was commissioned by Proagrica, a global provider of technology solutions for the agriculture and animal health industries. It suggests over half of US males (52%) have considered making the dietary change, with a third (32%) citing health during the pandemic as the main reason - compared to 21% of women.

Graeme McCracken, managing director at Proagrica, says: "From personal experience, we know the pandemic is changing our attitudes to food. This is most apparent in issues relation to health; the coronavirus has thrown into stark relief the need to eat healthily to stay healthy - and this extends beyond Veganuary.

"What's perhaps surprising is the fact it's men who are leading the charge - and it isn't just intention. 42% of men have increased the amount of vegetarian or vegan food they consume over the last year, double the figure for women (21%). in fact, nearly a third of women (30%) suggest they would never eliminate meat from their diets - compared to just 19% of men. This goes to show that we should never fall back on lazy assumptions."

The findings suggest dietary change is set to accelerate further if the pandemic extends further into 2021. In this outcome, nearly half (44%) of consumers suggested they would reduce their meat consumption in favor of vegetarian or vegan options. Again, there's a significant gender divide apparent, 55% of men indicate they would make the switch, as compared to 35% of women.

These attitudes are apparent in relation to both grocery shopping and eating out. 67% of males are 'likely' or 'very likely' to choose plant-based products when they are available on the menu at fast food restaurants, compared to 46% of women. Overall, only a fifth (20%) of all consumers would avoid plant-based options.

While health is the primary motivation behind dietary change, the cost of meat is not far behind - cited as an issue by 28% of the sample. Sustainability is also rising up the consumer agenda and over a quarter (27%) of respondents are concerned about the environmental impacts of meat. Attitudes are borne out by shopping trends; a quarter are opting for less polluting food types and nearly a third (29%) are buying local produce to reduce food miles.

McCracken concludes: "While COVID-19 has clearly been the driving force in persuading many to change their diets, there are a whole raft of reasons for people choosing to reduce their meat intake. While there is clearly some crossover in audiences, the combined factors suggest changing dietary choices offer a real chance for plant-based foods to become a mainstream concern over the course of this year.

"Also, as shoppers are thinking more closely about issues such as provenance and food miles, the spotlight will fall on retailers and the hospitality sector to demonstrate transparency from seed to fork."

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