The world’s dietary habits are changing… fast. Between 2014 and 2017, the number of vegan consumers in the US rose from 1% to 6%. In terms of dining options, there are more vegan restaurants in North America than ever before, growing from 55 cited locations in 1993 to 970 restaurants last year. In a 2018 Ipsos study, one in five participants preferred not to eat meat, poultry, or fish. Four in ten were “interested in trying plant-based substitutes for meat.” With the shifting public opinion on the foods we eat, we found some consumer insights on the world’s changing diets and how companies are responding.

What did our consumer insights reveal?

We focused our research on the online conversation of three prominent dietary trends: vegan diets, vegetarian diets, and gluten-free diets. Over the past three months, we found that veganism took up the largest share of voice online by far.

What was even more interesting, however, was how the mentions evolved alongside each other. Our insight surfacing module found that online conversations related to vegan and gluten-free diets were highly correlated.


Now, what does that really mean? As seen in the line graph below, mentions of these two topics evolved in a strikingly similar fashion over time.


First, let’s remember that vegan diets and gluten-free diets are two very different things. Vegans do not eat animal products or by-products, including meat, dairy products, eggs, and more. On the other hand, gluten-free diets only limit foods that contain gluten, which includes most wheat-based products, such as bread, pasta, crackers, and more.

So if these two diets are so different, why are their mentions so highly correlated? It may be that these two populations overlap. Or, the two diets interest the same group of people. This valuable information helps to narrow down the target audience and make meaningful decisions in product development.

How are these trends changing the direction of businesses?

Between 2016 and 2022, the gluten-free product market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.5% and is expected to reach over $5.2 billion by 2022. On top of that, the success of veggie burgers is pushing meatless protein products into the picture for many large companies, such as Kellogg Co. and Kraft Heinz Co.

In fact, earlier this year, food giant Kraft Heinz has invested in five vegan startups. These startups include BRAMI, Ka-Pop!, Blake’s Seed Based, Origin Almond, and Tiny Giants.

In analyzing the online conversations around Kraft Heinz brands, we found a significant difference in the positive sentiment between Kraft Heinz’s “general” brands (11.94%) and their new investments in vegan startups (52.63%). (For reference, Kraft Heinz’s general brands include Oscar Mayer, Kraft Foods, Lunchables, and more.) In other words, the online community loved the company’s investment decision.


Consumer Insights on Vegan Startups

We took a deep dive into the online conversations around the startups that Kraft Heinz invested in. Our platform told us that co-mentions between KaPop Snacks and the phrase “gluten-free” were noteworthy. A whopping 68.75% of conversations about KaPop mention the phrase “gluten-free.”

What’s interesting is that KaPop’s products are actually both gluten-free and vegan. However, online mentions focus on the gluten-free aspect, which tells us that this selling point is more appealing to consumers and generates more buzz.

Our automated insight surfacing tool also found a notable correlation in the mentions of both BRAMI and KaPop! This correlation means that mentions about the two brands change in a similar fashion over time. This means that consumers interested in one brand are often excited by the other! From this information, we think that BRAMI and KaPop snacks can collaborate in their marketing efforts to target this audience.


What did our consumer insights find about influencers?

According to a 2018 Ipsos report on diets around the world, 16% of participants said that advice from bloggers encouraged them to reduce the amount of meat they eat. Naturally, we wanted to take a look at the top influencers for these vegan startups.


The top Instagram influencer was a health and lifestyle influencer named Catherine (@cheeseandcardio).

Just last month, she posted a photo with one of BRAMI’s products.

Other mentions of BRAMI came from similar influencers or e-commerce accounts hosting giveaways.

KaPop was popular with influencers as well. Startups specializing in healthy foods can benefit from partnering with health and lifestyle influencers who frequently post about their meals and snacks. In other words, their followers are not only familiar with these kinds of posts but look forward to them.

Healthy eating is here to stay. For the sake of our health and our planet, we’re thankful for that. As consumer opinions change over time, companies need to keep up and develop products that people want. An excellent consumer insights tool should be able to identify how online conversations evolve over time and in relation to other topics. Insights into correlated trends or brands can help finetune marketing campaigns and even be the start of potential partnerships. See what an automated insight surfacing tool can do for you.