Vegetarian and vegan choices are becoming more popular and available across Canada, as more people make the switch.
According to his poll, 7.1 per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarian, and 2.3 per cent consider themselves vegans, levels he says were not known before his research.
“I’m not aware of a scientific study around vegetarian and vegan rates in Canada specifically,” Charlebois told CBC News.
“As we were collecting data, we started to realize that this is rich data that will help us understand where veganism and vegetarianism is going in the country.”
Charlebois said what was “mind-blowing,” was the that the research illustrated that of the Canadians who identified as vegetarians and vegans, more than half were under the age of 35.
“Those are really, really high numbers,” said Charlebois, who works in areas of food policy and food distribution.
“Even though we believe the overall rates have not gone up, they could go up over the next couple of decades as a result of seeing such a high number of young consumers committing to speciality diets…
“That will actually impact food demand over the next few decades and I suspect the food industry will need to adapt.”
Charlebois’s research also revealed that 16 per cent of all vegetarians in Canada, live in west-coast British Columbia.
On the east-coast, Rylee Booroff, a Halifax-area restaurant worker told CBC she switched to a vegan diet eight years ago while a university student, for health reasons.
Since switching she says noticed a shift in veganism and vegetarian culture in Canada.
“It’s really blown up … I used to work at a vegan restaurant in Toronto and seeing the growth of our restaurant over the years, I could really tell that people started to take either a lot more care about what they were eating or they were just more interested in a plant-based diet,” said Booroff, who is now a supervisor at The Wooden Monkey in the Halifax suburb of Dartmouth.
“Health is everything now. We work it into everything. We work it into the clothes we buy, the socks we wear… People want to do the best by their bodies and being healthy is now a lifestyle.”
Attitudes toward meat are beginning to change, according to Charlebois.
“A lot of studies are actually discouraging consumers from eating red meats specifically. Even the World Health Organization has made processed meats a category one product, which means it could cause cancer, at the same level as asbestos,” said Charlebois, who was aided by research assistant Caitlin Cunningham.
“Health seems to be a big driver across the board. That really could entice consumers to commit to veganism or vegetarianism.” he said.
(With files from CBC and CP)