Market insights into people's food choices in the US and Great Britain
January 17th, 2024, Hoang Nguyen

Market insights into people's food choices in the US and Great Britain

Understanding consumer eating habits is crucial for food, beverage and lifestyle companies that are navigating the landscape of dietary choices and seeking to engage people who follow specific diets.

Recent YouGov Self-serve research in the US and Great Britain offers valuable insights into what people typically eat, the special diets/restrictions they adhere to and what motivates them to eat.

The data also take a close look at the views of vegans and vegetarians, particularly when it comes to whether or not they find it difficult to follow their diets. Let’s dig in!

Eating habits in the US and Great Britain

The ways we eat are shaped by health trends, cultural influences and personal preferences. Here’s what we found out about consumers’ eating habits in the US.

  • A majority (62%) of US adults identify as meat eaters, highlighting the popularity of animal-based protein in US diets.
  • 13% of respondents identify as flexitarians, meaning they follow a mixed diet where people typically eat vegetarian meals but will eat meat occasionally.
  • While people predominately eat meat in the US, there’s a notable presence of those who follow whole food (5%), plant-based (3%), vegetarian (3%), pescatarian (2%) and vegan (2%) diets.

Across the Atlantic, British consumers are a meat-eating majority (67%). Let’s get a taste for what else they eat.

  • Flexitarian diets are also popular with Brits, with 13% saying they eat a mixed diet that focuses mainly on vegetarianism with the occasional consumption of meat.
  • 6% of Brits say they follow a vegetarian diet and 2% follow a vegan diet. An additional 2% say they follow plant-based diets (consuming mostly foods derived from plants but not necessarily vegetarian or vegan)
  • Pescatarian diets are another notable dietary choice, with 4% of Brits saying they eat fish but not meat or poultry.

Special dietary preferences

Beyond general eating habits, YouGov Self-serve research also revealed the special diets that people follow including those commonly due to allergies and intolerances. These “free-from” groups reveal the biggest types of ingredients people try to limit or avoid.

  • Reducing sugar intake: A quarter (25%) of US adults and 13% of British adults say they currently follow a sugar-free or low sugar diet.
  • Limiting carbs: 18% of US adults follow a low-carb diet and 6% of Brits say the same.
  • Avoiding dairy and gluten: 10% of US consumers follow a dairy-free diet and 4% choose not to consume gluten. Both preferences have a similar share of followers in Great Britain, with 6% each avoiding dairy and gluten.

What motivates vegetarian and vegan diets?

We looked at the “why” behind people in the US and Great Britain choose to embrace vegetarian and vegan diets. These motivations speak to the values and beliefs that vegan/vegetarian consumers hold and can help brands connect to these audiences on a deeper level.

Ethical considerations stand at the top of the list, with three-quarters (75%) of vegans/vegetarians in Great Britain saying animal welfare motivates their current eating habits. In the US, two-fifths (43%) of vegans/vegetarians also say animal welfare plays a role in why they eat what they eat.

Environmental impact is another ethical factor behind veganism and vegetarianism. Half (54%) of vegans/vegetarians in Great Britain and 36% of that audience in the US say they want to reduce or limit their environment footprint through their food choices.

Weight loss and healthier eating are two other popular reasons why people choose a vegan or vegetarian diet. For these individuals in Great Britain, 45% want to eat healthier and positively impact their overall health while 25% would like to lose weight. Similar shares of vegans/vegetarians in the US indicate their eating habits are motivated by aspirations to eat healthier (40%) and lose weight (36%).

When does being vegan/vegetarian get tough?

The research also explores the challenges people face while following their vegan or vegetarian diets. Situations such eating while on a vacation or holiday are where it's toughest for vegans/vegetarians in the US and Great Britain (41% and 40% respectively.)

Social gatherings at people’s homes also present a difficult challenge for these groups (34% in the US and 27% in Great Britain). Many also point to restaurants and cafes as places where it is difficult to accommodate their eating habits (38% in the US and 24% in Great Britain).

Even at home, 7% of British vegans/vegetarians say it’s difficult to follow their diet. The share who says this is especially pronounced in the US, where 32% of vegans/vegetarians find it difficult to adhere to their diet at home.