Photo: Fruit and vegetables

Happy New Year! Our Down to Earth team wishes you greater happiness and wonderful health in 2019.

Looking back at 2018 and what our customers’ favorite things were, we found that Down to Earth’s best sellers were CBD tea, CBD honey, CBD chocolates, CBD gummies, (and more…you get the idea), fermented foods, cultured coconut yogurt, mushroom coffee and drinks, and artisan ghee. It will be exciting to see what trends emerge this year. The best news is that the interest in plant-based, vegetarian, and vegan diets has seen enormous growth.

In fact, it’s likely that in the last month you’ve seen at least one of these:

  • Pictures of an amazing weight loss transformation attributed to switching to a plant-based diet,
  • A trailer for a documentary with disturbing footage of animals in a slaughterhouse, or
  • A vibrant rainbow-hued plate of vegetables and grains with a #vegan hashtag

If you spend time on social media platforms, like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or Instagram, it’s hard to avoid the vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based diet posts and videos. Our society’s infatuation with social media, eye-catching images, and, most of all, quick and entertaining videos has been a boon for and a driver of the plant-based diet trend. Colorful, fresh, and delicious-looking meals are especially well-suited for platforms like Instagram. The abundance of meatless meal images are an extremely effective marketing tool to change the notion that vegetarians just eat boring salads. Whether it’s celebrity vegans sharing their testimonials, comedic skits poking fun at vegan stereotypes, or doctors talking seriously about the health benefits of dropping meat from your diet, the viral posts keep coming and they keep garnering views—and shares.

What has been the result of pairing vegetarian messaging and social media? #Success!  According to recent numbers from the market research firm Nielsen, commissioned by the food advocacy group Good Food Institute, sales of plant-based foods amounted to $3.7 billion in the last twelve months. The data showed that while all U.S. retail sales only grew by 2 percent, sales of plant-based foods increased by 17 percent in the past year. 

Plant-based “meat” sales grew by 23 percent, creating a U.S. retail market worth $684 million. 14.7 million households nationwide have purchased a “mock-meat” product.1 It’s not just vegans who are purchasing these foods; many dedicated meat-eaters are interested in plant-based foods too.

There isn’t any reliable research proving that social media posts are responsible for increased sales of vegetarian products, but Instagram has more than 800 million users and it happens to be a very effective tool to showcase the beauty of vegan meals, with their vibrant colors and variety. Instagram users tend to make posts about things that they are passionate about, and delicious, healthy food certainly makes for appealing and easily shareable information.

The number of people in the U.S. that identify as vegan grew from 1 percent to 6 percent between 2014 and 2017, a 600% increase.2   Although that may still seem like a pretty small portion, we can expect those numbers to continue to grow as customers find more exciting vegetarian options in their favorite grocery stores and restaurants, as well as online inspiration.

As an all-vegetarian store and deli, Down to Earth, has witnessed and contributed to the growing interest in healthier, plant-based foods over the last 40 years. We love to educate and share information with our customers--along with a variety of local and organic foods to satisfy even the most stubborn meat-lovers--letting people know that the “single most important thing an individual can do for their health, for the environment, and for the sake of the innocent animals is to adopt a vegetarian diet.” An all-vegetarian diet reduces the risk of heart disease, helps prevents some types of cancer, helps people lose weight and keep it off, and can even contribute to reducing global warming.3

The benefits and the popularity of being more discerning about what you chose to eat are being shared far and wide, thanks in part to the rise of the social media generation.

And in case you are thinking this is merely a passing fad, a recent study on eating habits conducted by DuPont Nutrition & Health found that almost 60 percent of respondents said that their change to plant-based food was permanent or they hoped it was permanent.4

Projections show more growth and a greater piece of the food market going to plant-based foods. Increased interest in vegetarianism is a positive shift for our health and for our environment, so we encourage you to make a plant-based diet your New Year’s resolution, if you haven’t made this commitment to better health already. We welcome you to stop by any of our stores for inspiration, advice, and yummy treats.

Footnotes: 

1 “Plant Based Market Overview”, The Good Food Institute, https://www.gfi.org/marketresearch

2 “The Growing Acceptance Of Veganism”, Forbes, November 2018 https://www.forbes.com/sites/janetforgrieve/2018/11/02/picturing-a-kindl...

3 “Top Ten Reasons for Going Veggie”, https://www.downtoearth.org/go-veggie/top-10-reasons

4 “DuPont Nutrition & Health Unveils New Research on Plant-Based Eating: DuPont, November 13, 2018, http://www.dupont.com/industries/food-and-beverage/press-releases/plant-...