Vegetables and cereals in a paper bag on a black background.

Why is veganism on the rise?

Celebrated on 1 November, the benefits of veganism for humans and the natural environment are celebrated through activities such as setting up stalls, hosting potlucks, and planting memorial trees.


World Vegan Day is celebrated by vegans around the world every 1st of November. The benefits of veganism for humans and the natural environment are celebrated through activities such as setting up stalls, hosting potlucks, and planting memorial trees. The event was established in 1994 by Louise Wallis, then Chairperson of The Vegan Society in the UK, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the organisation and the coining of the terms' "vegan" and "veganism".

All over the world, consumers are spending more on vegan food and moving towards plant-based diets.

But what is behind this increase?

According to a recent report by Chef’s Pencil, vegan interest is at an ‘all-time high’ in South Africa. Based on Google Trends data, South Africa is among the top 30 countries world-wide where veganism was most popular over the past 12 months.

In fact, South Africa ranks in 23rd place and is the only African country with a sizeable vegan following.

“Although the term ‘vegan’ was initially used to identify people following an animal-free diet, veganism encompasses more than just food choices. Other products, such as medicine, cosmetics, and clothing made without animal derivatives, can also be vegan. Veganism is now used to describe a lifestyle, one that is against all mistreatment and exploitation of animals.”

Sonja Svensek, Head of Nutrition FOUR PAWS

Although veganism spans all ages and cultures, certain groups sway more towards plant-based diets and lifestyles. However, it’s not possible to find an official, peer-reviewed study on world vegan demographics.

Sonja points out apart from innovative vegan foods hitting the supermarkets the growth of veganism is also due to increasing consumer awareness of the health consequences of eating animal derived products, as well as the ethical and environmental impact of intensive animal agriculture.

“With so many vegan options on the market today, consumers are spoilt for choice without having to compromise their favourite foods, as a lot of conventional food types such as meat and dairy products are available in animal-free varieties. From plant-based burgers to sausages, to cold cuts and minced meat, from ice cream to cakes, the variety of vegan foods offered have increased over the recent years and set to grow even more.”

Another reason is fast-food chains and popular restaurant franchises that are now offering more and more vegan options. They are not only gaining a wider consumer base but have the influence of making vegan foods mainstream.

Sonja believes it is only a matter of time until even more fast-food chains will offer vegan options such as plant-based burgers, as well as dairy-free desserts.

“Whilst any highly processed foods should be consumed to a minimum irrespective of whether it’s vegan or not, the fact that fast-food chains and franchised restaurants offer vegan options in the first place means its slowly but surely becoming more mainstream.”

Sonja urges fast-food chains to not only offer vegan options but reduce the amount of meat and dairy offered to help end the number of suffering animals from factory farms and to help mitigate climate change.

Reduce is one of the three FOUR PAWS pillars of the 3R-approach to the transformation of consumption of all animal protein: Reduce animal products, refine your life to use better animal welfare products and replace animal products with the use of plant-based alternatives.

The popularity of social media platforms and influencers sharing vegan recipes, nutritional advice, and their favorite vegan food, has also led to trends and a change in individual behaviour around food choices, as well as a change of lifestyle.

She says that undeniably, a lot of vegan recipes requires specific ingredients to make certain dishes, but vegan food is often less complex than people believe it to be. Numerous Instagram accounts for example as well as videos on YouTube show how easy and attainable everyday recipes are for vegan dishes.

Says Sonja: “Vegan food can be fun, affordable and delicious!”

For optimal health there are a few things to keep in mind when switching to a vegan diet.

Favoring a diet that limits processed foods and replacing them with nutrient-rich ones is important for everyone, not only vegans. However, if a vegan diet is poorly planned, vegans may be at an increased risk of certain nutrient deficiencies. So, a well-planned vegan diet that includes nutrient-rich whole and fortified foods can help provide adequate nutrient levels.  Vegans unable to meet their recommended nutrient intakes through foods or fortified products alone, should consider taking supplements particularly for Vitamin B12.