Growing flexitarian movement has Canada's food industry adapting to new reality

New report says 1 in 5 Canadians either restricting or eliminating meat from diets


By Brandon Barrett, PIQUE

Nov 29, 2018


With nearly one in five Canadians either restricting meat or eliminating it altogether, the nation's food-service industry has been slowly adapting to shifting dietary preferences. According to a new report out of Dalhousie University, that means an increasing emphasis on flexitarians, not, as you might suspect, vegetarians or vegans.


"It's because of two reasons," explained Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, professor in food distribution and policy at the Halifax school. "One, flexitarians are a significant market. And secondly, I would say it's an easy target. (Flexitarians are) a bit of a bridge between the conventional market and a market that has always been considered marginal.


"You can actually make links between different types of dietary preferences."


More than 3.5 million Canadians consider themselves flexitarians, also known as "conscious carnivores," who have decided to limit their meat consumption for a variety of reasons. For some, it's an ethical choice made for environmental and/or animal-welfare reasons. For others, it might be a way to improved their diet or save a few bucks.


The report says that Baby Boomers make up the most significant portion of the flexitarian population, likely influenced by the dietary choices of their younger family members, who are more likely to be vegetarian or vegan.


"Many flexitarians likely have children who are vegans or vegetarians, or may have friends who are not eating meat," a summary of the report reads. "Regardless, a greater number of consumers are accepting the reality that food diversity is the new normal, especially when it comes to protein sources."


The fast-food sector is probably the slowest to adapt to this new reality, although, according to Charlebois, it is an industry that has made significant strides recently. The report highlights A&W's Beyond Burger as a prime example. Made from pea protein, the sandwich sold out just a month after its release, reportedly selling better at many of the chain's locations than A&W's signature Teen Burger. Its creator, the California-based high-tech food company Beyond Meat, has taken North American consumers by storm, and with some serious money behind it—Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio and two of Twitter's founders are investors—it looks to penetrate the market even deeper in the future.


Part of the Beyond Burger's success, the report noted, is due to A&W "normalizing the offer." The 'Beyond Burger' was treated as part of the regular menu, and, at least according to consumers, tastes similar to other sandwiches on the menu...