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How to cater to the veg consumer


With only 4% of the Canadian population self-identifying as vegetarians or vegans, you may wonder whether it’s important to focus in on this small demographic and meet their needs as consumers.

Well, based on the success at Vancouver’s Veg Expo last month, it's clear that way more than 4% of Canadians (or Vancouverites anyway) are interested in vegetarian or plant-based eating, even if they don’t put themselves exclusively in this category.

In fact, the show grew in size from last year’s initial success and saw thousands of attendees come through the doors.

The show floor was hopping! With over 100 vendors and a stage line-up of local dietitians, chefs, fitness experts and even a live feed of Dr. Andrew Weil, founder of the Anti-Inflammatory diet, there was plenty to learn, see and sample.

The word is definitely on the street (and the internet)! A predominantly plant-based diet is not only healthier for your body, but also for our food system and planet.

In fact, for the first time ever, the 2015 American Dietary Guidelines focuses not just on human health but states that “consistent evidence indicates that, in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods (or a Mediterranean diet), such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact (GHG emissions and energy, land, and water use) than is the current average U.S diet…so limit red meat, processed meat, poultry to 1 serving per week if you’re not completely vegetarian.”

They certainly haven’t made this statement about the gluten-free diet! Meaning plant-based eating is only going to grow and thus demands that as grocers, we need to grow this category as well.

Consider the following when appealing to the veg-heads or flexitarians:

1. Do you have vegetarian or even vegan options in your HMR program? Think black bean & yam wraps, tofu salads, lentil soups and non-dairy cream soups made with coconut.

2. Are you stocking special vegan proteins, like tempeh (a fermented soybean cake) or seitan (a wheat gluten cutlet)?

3. Is your pharmacy moving beyond whey protein to plant-based protein powders like those from peas or pumpkin seeds?

4. Are you carrying hemp hearts, the seed with the highest protein amount?

5. Are you providing cooking instructions and recipes to accompany your bulk dried legumes?

6. Do you have a large non-dairy beverage set with soy, almond, coconut, cashew and hemp mylks and potentially even some cold-pressed, small producer nut mylks?

7. And don’t forget the other non-dairy alternatives, like Daiya or Tofutti cheese, Coconut Bliss frozen desserts, Earth Balance or Melt margarines and even non-dairy yogurts.

Jump in to vegging out as more and more Canadian consumers transition from eating a heavily animal-based diet into one that is more flexitarian or fully plant-based, for their health and that of our food system.

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