Think vegetarians are all granola-munching, long-haired hippies? Not so! Vegetarians come from all walks of life. They’re highly educated, aware about animal rights and environmental issues, and passionate about their veg lifestyle and the brands that cater to them. The market is large: There are about 18 million vegetarians in the U.S., and vegetarian food is a $2.8 billion industry. In addition, vegetarians are less price-sensitive than the general population: “They’re willing to spend more for products of importance to them and companies that they support,” says Colleen Holland, associate publisher of VegNews magazine.
There are various levels of vegetarianism. Vegans eat no animal products at all, including eggs, dairy and honey. Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat no meat (fish and poultry included) but do eat eggs and dairy. Pescatarians, which are not really vegetarians, eat no meat except for fish. And flexitarians, who are also not vegetarians, per se, but are concerned with healthy eating, have several meatless meals per week. “Twenty [percent] to 25 percent of the population describes itself as ‘vegetarian-inclined’ and eats four or more meatless meals per week,” says Joel Bartlett, assistant director of marketing for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Porter Novelli’s proprietary survey about consumer attitudes and behaviors, ConsumerStyles, reports that compared to the total population, vegetarians are more likely to be female (62 percent female, 38 percent male), and the average age of vegetarians is 47. Vegetarians are less likely than the total population to be married (49 percent vs. 61 percent), and this group is less likely than the total population to have at least one child under the age of 19 living at home. In addition, vegetarians are more highly educated than the total population, says COnsumerStyles, with 41 percent reporting to have a college education or higher, compared to 32 percent of the total population.