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Albert Einstein, Leo Tolstoy, Steve Jobs, Albert Schweitzer, Mahatma Gandhi, Leonardo da Vinci, Richard Gere, Demi Moore, and Brad Pitt─what do these people have in common? The answer is that they are or were vegetarians. Many celebrities being vegetarian is just one of the reasons why interest in vegetarianism is increasing. Infectious diseases related to animals such as Avian Influenza and Food-and-Mouth disease, the “well-being” craze, and growing interest in the environment started drawing attention to vegetarianism. What is good about this recent trend is that views based on misconception and prejudices, such as considering vegetarians as picky people and vegetarianism as having a kind of sense of superiority, could be somewhat changed through active social discussion triggered by people’s growing interest.

As the number of vegetarians increases, vegetarianism became one of the various life styles in terms of individual and collective values by which a society can be influenced. The current trend is causing the vegetarian market called ‘vegenomics’ to grow steadily over the last few years. In Korea, the number of vegans, the strictest vegetarians, is estimated to be over 500,000. This figure more than doubled from 10 years ago and is expected to increase far more. This figure exceeds over 1,000,000 if the number of lacto-vegetarians, who allow milk and dairy goods, ovo-vegetarians, who allow only eggs, and lacto-ovo-vegetarians, who allow milk, diary goods, and eggs, are included. Considering that there are also semi-vegetarians who eat birds and fish and fruitarians who eat only fruit, seeds, and nuts, it can be assumed that the vegetarian market has a favorable outlook and is going to grow further in the future.

Now we can see that vegetarianism is getting out of the trap of misconception and prejudices and receiving positive attention. Some business people who tactfully sensed this trend began to come up with various products and services, targeting the customers who are willing and ready to happily spend their money on pursing their value. Today, I’d like to check out what kinds of products and services are being introduced to this rising market.

As you may expect, the biggest change is happening in food-related business. More restaurant owners are considering putting vegetarian dishes on their menu. The Impossible Burger in the U.S. is a good example of a successful veggie product. Developed by ‘Impossible Foods’, the Impossible Burger was made from wheat, coconut oil, potatoes, and most importantly, heme. Heme, which is an iron-rich molecule contained in blood, enabled the Impossible Burger to taste just like a beef burger. The Impossible Burger received a positive response from customers and considerable investment funds from a great number of firms including Microsoft, CKH Holdings, Google Ventures, and Khosla Ventures. Besides the Impossible Burger, there are many other products which are being welcomed by consumers, such as products of ‘Beyond Meat’, the vegan muffins of Paris Baguette in the eastern part of the U.S., and the vegetarian Choco Pie of Orion Corporation, which was released in India. Furthermore, according to Euromonitor, a firm that provides credible market research reports, the global vegetarian meat market jumped from $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion last year. It is expected to reach $3 billion by 2020. Also, while the alternative meat market grew 7.9% from 2010 to 2015, the existing processed meat market grew at a slower rate of 3.6% over the same period.

Vegetarian products are not limited to food. Not to mention just vegetarians, even general consumers are paying attention to vegan cosmetics brands such as Aesop and Lush. Those brands successfully built high brand loyalty among vegetarians as they fulfilled their demand for guaranteeing animal rights and protecting the environment. Also, they could satisfy general consumers by using eco-friendly, plant-based ingredients that are good for skin health. As an example, Aesop is introducing itself as a firm that ‘widely investigates to source plant-based and laboratory-made ingredients’. These factors were good enough to appeal to a wide range of customers. Besides the cosmetics field, various products such as clothing, condoms, and shampoos for vegetarians have been developed and the demand for them has also grown remarkably.

“The preference for natural, simple and flexible diets will drive further expansion for vegetarian, vegan and other plant-based formulations.” By Mintel"

Mintel, a London-based market research firm, selected ‘Power to the Plants’ as their expression of the food trend of 2017. They also predicted that vegetarianism influence will continue to expand under this trend. I could personally experience this trend when I visited Marche Market recently. Marche Market is where city farmers and owners of eco-friendly restaurants gather and sell their crops and food twice a month. As I didn’t expect the large scale of the market, I was so surprised as soon as I got there. With such a huge number of visitors, it was so crowded that it was hard to take my time and look closely at each booth. Also, it was very impressive that most of them had their own tumbler and utensils as an effort to reduce the use of disposable products. I could see that there are many people in our society who have such a big interest in and enthusiasm about an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

I don’t insist that everybody should be a vegetarian. Even doctors say that moderate amounts of meat are nutritionally essential and that some people, like cancer patients and pregnant women, should avoid the vegetarian diet. However, at the same time, it is obvious that too much meat consumption has disturbed and destroyed ecosystems. Just as the old saying goes, “too much water drowned the miller,” I do insist that it is time to think about balance in the environment.

Yun Daeun  rosemaryd95dd@gmail.com

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