By Kaylee Trainum / NM News Port
Veganism is making its way into mainstream society, with plant based food sales increasing by 8 percent last year according to research conducted by Nielson for the Plant Based Foods Association and the Good Food Institute. With this rise, there’s a corresponding demand for vegan products.
“When I opened it, everyone told me I was crazy to do such a thing,” said Albuquerque chef Shawn Weed, talking about his new restaurant Acre, a vegetarian and vegan restaurant that specializes in comfort food.
He said attitudes are shifting ever since he opened the restaurant.
“There was no Impossible Burger in the media” Weed said. “There was no vegetarian menu on Taco Bell at that time. I saw that there was a very necessary place for diners to be able to go and get plant based food.”
The Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat are meat-like products made from ingredients like legumes, potato, and rice, but have a very similar texture to meat.
Health consciousness may be a big factor in the growing market for vegan and vegetarian products, but there’s also a link between animal products and climate change, according to a United Nations climate change report.
The climate change report said emissions from animal-based agriculture significantly contribute to climate change. Moreover, according to research conducted by Pew Research, 59 percent of Americans feel that climate change is affecting their local community.
“If everyone went meatless one day a week, that’s a seventh less of meat produced in a week and that’s a huge impact,” Weed said. “But also with that huge impact means there’s a lot more need for products to be made in a vegan, vegetarian, plant based way.”
Solomon Catanach, a former vegan and “flexitarian,” a person who eats plant based meals frequently, said the perception of veganism and plant based diets is rapidly changing for the better.
“There is so much talk and support surrounding veganism and plant based eating, for a variety of reasons” She said. There’s a lot of people who care about the wellbeing of animals, or the climate, or wellness. Whatever it is, there are a lot of people interested [in veganism], right now especially.”
“There’s been such a huge growth in options for vegan food, and really tasty options too,” Catanach said. “I think more people are realizing they can eat plant based foods that taste just as good as non-plant based foods.”
Aside from food, consumers are also looking for other plant-based products, such as vegan beauty products.
The global vegan cosmetic market is expected to reach over $20 billion dollars this year, which is an increase of about $6 billion dollars from 2017, according to Grand View Research.
Vapour, a Taos based makeup company that uses plant and mineral based ingredients, keeps the environment in mind when formulating their products.
“We’re looking at supply chain issues, we’re looking at sustainability issues, and we’re really trying to consider the entire life cycle of the ingredients,” Kristine Keheley, co-founder of Vapour said.
For Vapour, considering what happens to their products after customers use them and how it affects the environment is just as important as sourcing high quality ingredients.
“You also have to think about the end of life of the product” Keheely said. “When you wash something off of your skin, what does it do to the water supply in your community.”
According to a survey conducted by Statista in 2018, 87 percent of consumers in the United States choose to buy products with a social or environmental impact, which could mean more plant based options for consumers in the future.
Kaylee Trainum is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. She can be contacted on Twitter @kaylee_trainum or at firstname.lastname@example.org.