More Kiwis turning to vegetarianism - survey

Men, North Islanders and 14- 24-year-olds are the groups most responsible for the high rates of vegetarianism (iStock)
Men, North Islanders and 14- 24-year-olds are the groups most responsible for the high rates of vegetarianism (iStock)

Vegetarianism in New Zealand has grown 27 percent in the past five years -- and that's largely down to more men changing their diet, according to a recent study.

Roy Morgan Research has revealed that 63 percent more men than four years ago say all the food they eat -- or at least almost all -- is vegetable-based, with nearly 10 percent of all Kiwi males now referring to themselves as vegetarians.

As well as men, North Islanders and 14- to 24-year-olds are jumping aboard the vegetarian bandwagon with increasing regularity; 32 percent more North Islanders are vegetarians, along with 13.3 percent of 14- to 24-year-olds, representing a 55 percent increase in that demographic since 2012.

John La Rosa, general manager of client services at Roy Morgan Research, says it is increasingly important for food outlets to understand this group when making business decisions.

"Our research shows that vegetarians are well over twice as likely as the average Kiwi to avoid dairy foods whenever possible, perhaps as part of a stricter vegan diet, or to try to buy only organic food," he said.

"However they also are big consumers of frozen or chilled ready-prepared meals and takeaway foods who say they don't have time to spend cooking."

Mr La Rosa says businesses must also recognise that vegetarians do not necessarily refrain from buying meat -- and instead emphasis needs to be put on providing humanely sourced meat products.

"New Zealand is a meat-loving, and meat-producing, country and many vegetarians do still buy meat, whether for themselves or their families," he said.

"In fact, almost half (48 percent) of New Zealand's vegetarian grocery buyers purchase some form of fresh meat during the week.

"Supermarkets in particular will need to ensure they can cater to these vegetarian meat-buyers, providing organic, humanely sourced and trustworthy options."

Incidences of vegetarianism are up across all major demographics, according to the survey -- except among 35- to 49-year-olds, who are believed to be less likely to keep up a non-meat diet with the additional pressures of feeding children.

Just 7.8 percent of South Islanders eat mainly vegetarian food, while men remain less likely to abstain from meat than women.