Research from Toluna reveals that 80% of Australians are opting for meat-free days.

Aussies are eating less meat, eating plant-based meat alternatives, and trying restrictive diets in a bid to be healthier. Australia’s meat consumption is on the decline, with only one in five (20%) Australians eating meat every day, according to new research by Toluna, a leading consumer intelligence platform.

The research, which surveyed 1026 Australians between 27-30 July 2021, showed that health concerns were the driving factor for a number of dietary decisions, including reduced meat consumption, an uptick in plant-based alternatives, and the reason Australians are trying alternative diets, such as veganism, paleo and keto.

A desire to eat better 

Australians want to eat better than they currently do. Less than half (43%) of respondents considered their current diet to be ‘very healthy’, but when asked about future aspirations, 69% would like their diet to be ‘very healthy’ in future. A lack of self-control (52%), snacking (50%), and ordering takeaway (34%), are some of the main reasons respondents claimed their diet wasn’t as healthy as they’d like, as well as the fact that healthy choices are cost prohibitive (39%).

For women, being time poor (29%) had a much greater impact on their diet than it did men (20%), as did the habit of eating late at night (32% for women vs. 20% for men). Women were also more likely to prioritise their children over their diet (12% vs. 6% for men) and said their families not enjoying their healthy cooked meals (10% for women vs. 4% for men) also attributed to their own diets not being as healthy.

Conversely, for men who didn’t feel their diet was healthy, one in three (34%) said it was simply too hard to change (compared with only 21% of women). Men also claimed alcohol had a negative impact (27% vs. only 13% of women) on their diet.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also proven to be a barrier, with 61% of Australians stating COVID-19 has impacted their overall health and attitudes to healthy eating.

Across the board, respondents believe processed foods (62%) and saturated fats (60%) are some of the most problematic elements of a typical Western diet, with refined sugar (59%) and excess salt (55%) also a concern. Only 8% of those surveyed didn’t believe there were any issues with the typical Western diet.

Declining meat consumption 

Of the respondents who ate meat, a quarter (25%) had made efforts to reduce their meat consumption, with a further 19% planning to reduce their meat consumption in future. Almost half (42%) the meat eaters surveyed aim to have 1-2 meat free days per week, 24% go meat free 3-4 days a week, while 8% choose not to consume meat 5-6 days per week. Only 20% of respondents eat meat every day, with 6% never eating it at all.

Health concerns were the biggest driver for reducing meat consumption (65%), with the high cost of meat (40%) and environmental reasons (30%) also deciding factors. Only 12% of those who have reduced, or plan to reduce, meat consumption have made this decision due to moral reasons.

A quarter (25%) of respondents said they had tried plant-based meat alternatives, with the majority of those (66%) stating they will continue to eat them in future. Most respondents (70%) who like plant-based meats believe they’re a healthy alternative. Other reasons respondents enjoy plant-based meat alternatives is because they believe they’re better for the environment (54%), are more ethical (44%), and provide a vegetable boost (44%); while 20% can’t tell the difference between meat-alternatives and real meat.  

For those who wouldn’t eat meat alternatives again, it was largely because they thought the plant-based alternatives didn’t have an appealing taste (52%), were too bland (43%), too expensive (39%) or too rubbery (29%). Their families disliking plant-based meat alternatives (17%) and the food formats not being workable into meal plans (16%) were also reasons for not wanting to try these products in future.  

Diet hype 

Despite how much attention popular diets receive, very few respondents were following diets at the time of the survey. In fact, more respondents had given up their diets, than were currently trying them; and even then, only 16% said they followed their diets completely strictly.  

Only 6% of respondents were currently trying keto, with 12% having previously tried and given up. A mere 4% were following a paleo diet, with 7% having tried in the past but not continued. 10% of respondents were trying intermittent fasting, with 12% having tried but discontinued this practice. Only 6% of respondents were vegan, with 8% having previously been vegan but since given up.  

The biggest driving factor for trying new diets was health. Of those that had tried each diet, the majority believed it was a healthier choice (keto – 72%; organic – 68%; intermittent fasting – 70%; paleo – 50%; Atkins – 50%, CSIRO – 50%; blood group diet – 49%; macrobiotic – 44%; vegan – 54%). Some respondents chose diets due to medical reasons (such as diabetes or high cholesterol), predominantly those doing Atkins (40%), the blood group diet (41%), CSIRO (39%) and paleo (36%). Environmental concerns were also drivers for those following vegetarian (33%), flexitarian (36%), organic (33%) and vegan (29%) diets.  

Influence and awareness 

Australians are made aware of new diets from a variety of sources, ranging from news sites and social media, from medical professionals and academic literature, to celebrities, influencers, and friends and family. Respondents cited influencers and celebrities are the most prominent reason they were made aware of diets such as keto (45%), Atkins (50%), paleo (54%); while doctors and dieticians predominantly drove awareness amongst respondents for the vegan diet (55%), blood group diet (44%), CSIRO (44%) and paleo (44%).

When it comes to credibility, respondents stated doctors (65%), dieticians (66%), naturopaths (66%) and academic literature were some of the most credible sources of information. However, friends and family (55%), news sites and magazines (41%), and influencers (40%) were also cited as credible information sources.

Weighty issues 

Around half (50%) of respondents consider themselves to be within the ‘normal’ weight range, with 40% classifying themselves as overweight, and 6% obese. 4% of respondents considered themselves underweight.

While almost a third (27%) believed their weight negatively impacted their health, Australians are more concerned about overall health than figures on the scales. 38% of respondents expressed concern about their weight, while almost half (45%) said they were concerned about their health. The vast majority (80%) believe exercise plays a role in health and weight loss, although 33% believe you can be healthy through diet alone.

Toluna comment 

Sej Patel, Country Director, Toluna, Australia & New Zealand, said health issues are clearly a top priority for Australians.

“Our research shows that health concerns are weighing heavily on Australians, with health being the number one driving factor for the majority of our dietary decisions. Even though a very small number of Australians are currently following a vegan diet, a surprisingly large number are actively reducing their meat intake, choosing instead to have meat free days, or replace meat with plant-based alternatives.

“There’s a significant disparity between the way consumers rate the healthiness of their current diet and how healthy they wish their diet would be, which is likely a key driver for the need to try alternative diets. Some of the biggest barriers for Australians wanting to eat more healthily include a tendency for snacking or ordering takeaway, while COVID-19 has also had an impact on our overall attitudes to health and healthy eating.”

About Toluna  

Toluna delivers real-time consumer insights at the speed of the on-demand economy. By combining global scale and local expertise with innovative technology and award-winning research design, we help clients explore tomorrow, now. Toluna is the parent company of Harris Interactive Europe and KuRunData. Together, we strive to push the field of market research toward a better tomorrow.