Is Veganism Really Growing? Using Data to Track the Trend

Why it’s so hard to pin down the number of vegans.

Vegan section at grocery store
Credit: Josephine S. / Flickr

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Veganism is having a moment…for a while now. It seems like hardly a month goes by before a new vegan documentary hits Netflix, or another study comes out linking veganism to better health outcomes. The apparent growing popularity of veganism is a headline-driver; a polarizing, clicky “trend” people like to argue about in think pieces — but the number of vegans remains rather murky. Is veganism actually becoming more popular, or is it just a bunch of media hype?

Let’s dig in.

What Is Veganism?

Veganism is the practice of only eating foods that don’t include animal products. This encompasses not only meat but also milk, eggs and other food products that are derived, in whole or in part, from the bodies of animals. This is sometimes referred to as “dietary veganism.”

Some vegans also forego non-food products that contain animal derivatives, such as clothes, skin products, perfumes and so on. This is commonly known as “lifestyle veganism.”

How Popular Is Veganism?

Assessing the popularity of veganism is very difficult, as different studies often arrive at very different numbers. Many surveys also lump veganism in with vegetarianism, which can further frustrate things. In general, though, most polls from the last several years have estimated the share of vegans to be in the low-single digits.

In the U.S., for instance, a 2023 survey concluded that around four percent of Americans are vegans. However, another poll from the same year pegged the share of U.S. vegans at just one percent. According to government estimates, the U.S. population in 2023 was roughly 336 million; this would mean that the absolute number of vegans in the country is somewhere between 3.3 million, if the second poll is to be believed, and 13.2 million, if the first one is accurate.

The numbers are similar in Europe. An ongoing YouGov survey found that between 2019 and 2024, vegan rates in the UK remained steady between two and three percent. An estimated 2.4 percent of Italians maintain vegan diets, while in Germany, around three percent of people between 18 and 64 are vegans.

As we’ll see, however, veganism isn’t distributed evenly across populations. A person’s age, ethnicity, income level, country of origin and ethnicity are all correlated with their likelihood of being vegan.

Who Is Most Likely to Be Vegan?

The rate of veganism in many countries is in the low-single digits, but rates of veganism vary by age as well. In general, younger people are more likely to be vegan; a 2023 study found that around five percent of Millennials and Gen Z keep vegan diets, compared to two percent of Generation X and just one percent of Baby Boomers. A different poll from YPulse that same year put the share of Millennial vegans slightly higher than Gen Z, at eight percent.

It’s often claimed that 80 percent of vegans are women. While this specific number is likely an overstatement, most studies do suggest that there are more vegan women than vegan men. There’s also evidence that self-identified liberals are more likely to be vegan than conservatives.

Veganism has often been associated with wealth, but this stereotype isn’t accurate: people who make under $50,000 a year are three times more likely to be vegan than those who make more than that, according to a 2023 Gallup poll.

Is Veganism Becoming More Popular?

What the Polls on Veganism Reveal

This is an extremely difficult question to answer, due to the inconsistency of polling on the matter.

Back in 2014, a poll found that just one percent of Americans were vegan. The latest numbers from 2023, meanwhile, suggest that between 1-4 percent of Americans are vegan.

That’s a pretty big margin of error between the two polls. It implies that over the last nine years, the share of vegans in America has either increased by 400 percent or, alternatively, hasn’t increased at all.

And yet in 2017, a different poll concluded that six percent of all Americans are vegan, which would have been a record high. The next year, though, a Gallup survey pegged the share of vegan Americans at just three percent, implying that an entire 50 percent of the previous year’s vegans were no longer vegan.

Another complication: people responding to polls may also be confused about exactly what being a vegan means; they might self-report that they are vegan when they’re actually vegetarian or pescatarian.

All of this data paints a pretty murky picture. But public polls aren’t the only way to measure veganism’s popularity.

Other Ways to Measure the Growth of Veganism

Another is to look at trends and developments in the plant-based food industry, which is responsive to and reflective of consumer demand for vegan alternatives to meat and dairy products.

This perspective, thankfully, offers a more consistent picture. For instance:

  • Between 2017 and 2023, U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods jumped from $3.9 billion to $8.1 billion;
  • Between 2019 and 2023, estimated worldwide retail sales of plant-based foods increased from $21.6 billion to $29 billion;
  • Between 2020 and 2023, plant-based food companies raised more money from investors than they did in the entire 14-year period prior.

To be sure, these are indirect and inexact ways to measure veganism. Plenty of vegans opt for straight-up vegetables and legumes instead of plant-based meat replacements, and likewise, many people who eat plant-based meat replacements aren’t vegans. Still, the explosive growth of the industry over the last 5-10 years, and the fact that analysts expect it to continue growing, certainly points to an uptick in interest in veganism.

Why Are People Vegan?

There are a lot of reasons a person might become a vegan. Ethical, environmental, nutritional and religious concerns are all commonly cited motivators by people who adopt vegan diets.

Animal Welfare

According to a sweeping 2019 study by the vegan blog Vomad, 68 percent of vegans adopted the diet due to ethical concerns around the wellbeing of animals. It’s not controversial that animals in factory farms suffer immensely; whether it’s bodily mutilation, invasive forced insemination, cramped and unsanitary conditions or social disruptions, many people go vegan because they don’t want to contribute to this suffering.

The Environment

In a 2021 survey of over 8,000 vegans, 64 percent of respondents cited the environment as a motivating factor for their veganism. Animal agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of climate change, with as much as 20 percent of all greenhouse emissions coming from the livestock industry; it is also the leading cause of worldwide habitat loss. Cutting animal products — primarily beef and dairy — out of one’s diet is one of the biggest steps an individual can take to reduce their carbon footprint.


Gen Z has a reputation for being environmentally-conscious, but surprisingly, this isn’t the main reason why Gen Z eaters go vegan. In a 2023 survey, 52 percent of Gen Z vegans said they chose their diet for the health benefits. Some studies have shown that following a healthy vegan diet can boost cardiovascular health, prevent and reverse diabetes and help people lose weight. While individual results will of course vary, the purported health benefits are indeed appealing.

The Bottom Line

It’s tough to determine with certainty whether or not the number of vegans is increasing, or if people are converting to veganism at higher rates than in the past. What is clear, though, is that between food apps, meal kits, restaurants and recipes, it’s now much easier to be vegan — and should lab-grown meat attract enough funding to become more accessible, it may soon be even easier.

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