Public health officials, environmental advocates and even our own produce trade groups for decades have been attempting to get consumers to eat more produce and plant-based foods.
But until recently, with an onslaught of better tasting and more varieties of plant-based foods, there has been little success.
A new study from the University of Cambridge in England examined 94,000 meal choices in three cafeterias at their university. Those cafeterias offered four meal choices, with one being vegetarian, prior to the study. For this study, the number of vegetarian options was doubled to two.
The researchers found that vegetarian meal sales increased dramatically by simply having another option (and one fewer meat or fish option). In the three cafeterias they measured, the choice of a vegetarian meal jumped by about 62%, 41% and 79%. But the interesting thing is that actual meal sales did not decrease in a statistically significant way: People either ate a vegetarian meal or one of the two meat-containing meals but did not feel the need to go elsewhere to eat.
They found no such effect, saying that vegetarian sales remained at the same level following a vegetarian meal.
The research is important because it indicates that people will opt for vegetarian meals if there’s a little more effort put into them. When more options are available, people might just make the meat-free choice for themselves based on display, variety and, of course, taste.