In 2004, an automobile marketing expert called vegans the “middle of the bullseye,” referring to their passion and influence in the marketplace. Vegans, he said, are where companies should focus their marketing.
That was seven years ago and the statement seems prophetic as every company on the planet scrambles to appeal to increasing mainstream concerns about health and sustainability. Veganism and vegan ideals are increasingly reflected in product development, labels, advertisements, and consumer culture in general. And while some of this is just greenwashing, the fact that the general public is paying more attention to the things vegans have cared about for years, and that companies are increasingly marketing their products to meet these concerns, are encouraging signs.
The power and influence of veganism goes much deeper than many realize. According to our research, vegans — along with their vegetarian cohorts — are 25% more likely than non-vegetarians to be first among their friends to try new things. When it comes to food, vegans and vegetarians are a staggering 64% more likely to say they “frequently” try new grocery products when they come out. They are also 33% more likely to recommend restaurants or food items to their friends when compared with non-vegetarians.
In other words, vegans (and vegetarians) are market-movers despite being only about 1% of the adult U.S. population (up to 3% for vegetarians). This comes from the passion for food shared by most vegans, and their desire to share new vegan foods with others. As a result, vegans have become the “Mavens” that Malcolm Gladwell describes in The Tipping Point; they are the “information specialists” of the food industry.
And since 2004, companies in a wide variety of industries are starting to get it. Veganism, despite being the butt of occasional pop culture jokes, represents a combination of things that many consumers aspire to be – healthful, ethical, aware, part of a unique group, etc. It’s these traits that make veganism a powerful marketing tool and place the vegan consumer firmly in the middle of the bullseye.
The marketing expert that made the bullseye comment also noted that some car models (e.g., the Prius) do not offer leather seats because it might offend vegans. And that was in 2004. More recently, a diverse array of companies is appealing to vegan ideals. A recent ad for Method says, “We’re for guinea pigs never being used as guinea pigs.” Consumers can buy vegan motorcycle gloves from Aerostich or a complete line of vegan-labeled running shoes from Saucony.
There are many examples like these, and more are cropping up all the time, because companies large and small understand that they can appeal to a wide range of consumer interests by developing and marketing products for vegans. As society becomes more savvy and sophisticated, healthier and more ethical, it becomes more vegan – and smart marketers are making the connection.
Che Green, a vegan of more than 15 years, is the founder and president of Cultivate Research, the leading consumer and market research company serving the needs of the vegan and vegetarian food industry.