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While only 7% of Canadians currently follow a primarily plant-based diet, a significant number (27%) are considering doing so in the future

Vancouver, BC — Heading into the last weeks of the summer, don’t be surprised if you see a few extra veggie dogs or plant-based burgers tossed on the grill at barbeques and picnics across Canada—with a hard pass on the cheese. According to a new Insights West study on food and diet trends across the country, a sizable number of Canadians are considering a reduced-meat or meat-free diet including vegetarian, vegan, and pescatarian options. And another sizable percentage is considering a dairy-free or reduced-dairy diet.

Earlier this year, Health Canada made a major revision to Canada’s Food Guide, with two key differences over past guides. One major change was the elimination of the traditional “food groups,” with one specific change now combining meat and dairy products into a broader “proteins” category. The other was a recommendation for Canadians to follow a more plant-based diet including more fruits and vegetables. Whether they’re following the new guide or doing their own research on foods, a sizable percentage of Canadians appear to be taking the recommendations to heart and are looking at significant changes to what they consume.

Although 18% have at some point in the past tried a vegetarian diet and 6% have tried veganism, across Canada today, only a small percentage of people practice vegetarian (5%) or vegan (2%) diets. But the Insights West study found that the growing trend for the future could see more plant-based food options on the shopping lists and dinner plates of the nation. When asked about future diet considerations, a full 27% of Canadians said they were likely to consider a vegetarian diet and 11% would go further and explore a vegan diet.

Within that, the 18-34 year-old set is especially receptive to considering more plant-based diets—38% of younger Canadians are considering going vegetarian, with 17% saying they are likely to try veganism.

Another significant proportion of Canadians have or are considering reducing or removing dairy products from their diet—11% already do and 26% are considering it. Again, this sentiment is more likely to be shared by younger generations. For those aged 18-34, 36% say they are likely to consider cutting dairy. That also holds true for 28% of those aged 35-54. The 55+ set is less likely to pass on the dairy—only 18% are giving it consideration.

While not completely cutting out animal products, a pescatarian diet consisting of fish and/or seafood is currently consumed by 3% of Canadians with 13% likely to consider it for the future (7% have tried it before).

The reasons for cutting animal products from the menu often varies by the diet. Vegetarians, vegans, and pescatarians are mainly doing so or thinking about it because of concerns about animal cruelty, the environmental impact, and personal health. For those cutting out dairy, allergies and intolerances to dairy products are a prime reason for doing so. And although the sample size is small, the cost of foods produced from animals is cited as another reason for making diet changes.

Trends and Trendy Diets

While the Keto and Paleo diets have been trendy in recent years for those looking to manage their weight, the hot weight-management diet trend for the moment appears to be intermittent fasting. Currently only 8% of Canadians are trying intermittent fasting, but 16% have done it in the past, and 28% say are likely to consider it for the future. In fact, intermittent fasting looks to be more popular than Keto or Paleo: 11% of Canadians have tried Keto, only 4% have tried Paleo.

Gluten-free diets often have a reputation for being a trendy or fad diet, but the survey results show that the major reason people reduce or eliminate gluten from their diet is allergies or intolerances (although sample sizes are small). Currently, 3% of Canadians do not consume gluten and another 5% follow a diet with reduced or low gluten content.

Overall though, a majority of Canadians do not follow any particular type of diet—52% have never followed one and 67% aren’t currently following any prescribed or restricted diets.

“The recent trend across Canada of reducing animal proteins in one’s diet continues to gather momentum,” says Steve Mossop, president of Insights West. “What surprised us in this poll is the extent to which the plant-based movement is being embraced by Canadians—especially among Millennials. What is also significant is the varied number of reasons why people are considering trying this diet and the degree to which cost and taste are a factor in addition to the reasons of environment and animal cruelty.”

Living up to the province’s West Coast reputation, residents of BC are far more likely than anywhere else in Canada to have tried a plant-based or less “meaty” diet. A full 25% of British Columbians have tried a vegetarian diet at some point in the past—higher than the national average of 18%. The same applies for pescatarian diets (9% in BC vs. 5% across Canada), and vegan diets (11% vs. 6%). BC residents are also far more likely than residents of other provinces to have tried a detox diet (17% vs. 7% in Canada as a whole). However, in current terms, there isn’t a radical difference in the number of existing vegetarians in the province of BC currently, as it matches the national average.

About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company. It exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary.

About this Release:

Results are based on an online study conducted from July 18 – 23, 2019 among a representative sample of 1,011 Canadian adults. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies between totals are due to rounding. Click HERE to view the detailed data tabulations.

For further information, please contact:

Steve Mossop
Insights West