Confirming a clear trend of the last few years, Google searches for “vegan food near me” dramatically increased in 2021. According to Google’s Year in Search report, this search query reached “breakthrough status” (it increased by 5,000 % or more). In the UK, “How does eating less meat help climate change” was also a breakout search.
Several lockdowns due to the pandemic may have been a factor for this increase of searches, either because the plant-based restaurant’s vegans normally use may have closed or temporarily shut down — so people used Google to find an alternative — or customers were looking for vegan eateries where they could deliver meals to their homes quickly. According to Deliveroo, plant-based food orders have had a large growth spike in Hong Kong since the pandemic hit. The delivery services Instacart and Grubhub confirmed spikes in vegan orders during 2021.
This is part of a trend that started a few years ago. In 2020, Chef’s Pencil stated that global searches on vegan topics were at their highest to date, going beyond food into fashion accessories and cosmetics. Now that research has found that healthier vegan food is cheaper than the alternatives some consumers may start to get rid of their prejudices and switch to plant-based diets. And as children seem to be more interested in becoming vegan than adults, when they will reach “spending age” they will add further to this consumer trend.
However, veganism is not only about consuming vegan products — or switching animal products for vegan-friendly alternatives. It is a multidimensional philosophy that reaches issues such as ethics, the environment, health, social justice, philosophy, animal rights, spirituality and religion. Perhaps one day Google searches with the word vegan linked to any of these dimensions will grow beyond the commercial side of veganism. Perhaps one day searches for “vegan school near me”, “vegan pension providers”, or “vegan candidates in the upcoming election” will reach breakthrough status too, but we are not there yet.