Research briefing: What are consumers' motives for following veg*n diets?

You are here

» Research briefing: What are consumers' motives for following veg*n diets?

Researcher Network member, Gelareh Salehi, analyses the preliminary results of a systematic review conducted with Dr. Estela Díaz Carmona and Dr. Raquel Redondo on motives for following veg*an (vegan and vegetarian) diets. The review of 51 published papers in the Web of Science (WOS) contributes a synthesis and comparison on different reasons/motives for Following Veg*an Diets (FVD). 

An increasing number of western consumers are attempting to reduce their meat intake (flexitarian diet), exclude meat (vegetarian diet) or refrain from all kinds of animal-based foods (vegan diet/lifestyle). It is also predicted that these dietary preferences continue to grow in popularity both in practice, and also in scientific attempts, and that by 2040, 60% of the world’s population will be following veg*an diets.

The previous literature on consumers following veg*an diets is relatively wide-ranging, varying from studying (1) individual factors: attitudes, perceptions, motivations, and values; (2) social factors: norms, identity, relationships, and culture; (3) environmental/situational factors: marketing, and (4) other factors such as pet ownership. Among different influencing factors on following veg*an diets, motivations provide a reliable driving force. Since Ruby’s (2012) call for further research on consumers’ motivation for following veg*an diets, a rising amount of research is attempting to be answered.

The purpose of this review was to integrate, synthesise and compare the studies that investigated and explored consumers’ motivation orientation toward following veg*an diets. The data extraction indicated that several papers studied the reasons and motives of meat reduction or flexitarianism; meat exclusion or vegetarianism; and vegan diet/lifestyle.

Motives and reasons for adhering to veg*an diets vary noticeably. These motivations could be classified in two main categories: (1) altruistic (moral or ethical) motives, and (2) hedonic motives. The first group suggests other-focused values or ‘pro-social and moral’ while the second group implies self-focused value priorities. It should be noted that previous literature is inconsistent in classifying ethical motives. While some scholars define ethical motives as only animal-related concerns such as slaughtering animals and/or non-human animal suffering, some scholars also categorised other motives, such as environmental consideration, as ethical motives. In this research, all other-focused motive orientations are classified as altruistic, ethical, or moral beliefs of following veg*an diets.

Differentiating how the underlying value priorities of motive orientations, and consequently the attitudes and dietary behaviour that consumers have, the first classification of motives, the altruistic motives, include:

(1) animal-related; (2) environment-related; (3) religious/spiritual concerns; (4) social justice or human right issues; (5) political values, and (6) social reasons.

The second group of motives, the hedonistic motives, contain:

(1) physical and/or mental health, (2) sensory/gustatory appeals, and (3) economic considerations.

1. Animal-related motives

Animal-related motives of choosing veg*an diets are consumers’ considerations toward non-human animal protection, from the infliction of unnecessary pain and suffering, animal welfare, animal rights, animal respect and speciesism. The annual slaughter of 63.3 billion non-human animals for the food industry makes some consumers question their food choices. In sum, despite a small number of scholars who believe that following veg*an diets is also harmful for animals, the majority of related literature confirms the need to adhere to veg*an diets to protect animals from being slaughtered and suffering on farms in food production.

2. Environment-related motives

Environment-related or ecological motives of following veg*an diets could be named as consumers’ considerations towards environmental sustainability issues or resource scarcity due to the high carbon footprint of meat production (Rothgerber, 2013). These considerations could be classified into four main categories: (1) land use and environment degradation; (2) climate crisis and global warming; (3) air and/or water pollution and usage, and (4) biodiversity loss, deforestation, or ozone layer depletion. The exclusion of meat consumption motivated by environmental concerns indicates that denying meat products and substituting these foods with vegan foods has less negative impact on the environment.

3. Religious beliefs

Following veg*an diets is also a component of some religious/spiritual beliefs such as Seventh Day Adventism. The religious beliefs of choosing veg*an diets, such as Hinduism, Brahmanism, Buddhism, or Jainism or the general culture of Ahimsa in India, rooted in not taking the life of others, are animal-related motives.

4. Social justice and world hunger

Some consumers adhere to veg*an diets for reasons of social justice, referring to world hunger and human rights, as, if edible livestock feeds are devoted to humans rather than farmed animals, the available amount of food can be utilised by a larger number of people. Whilst there are few academic attentions on the association of human rights/welfare and veg*an dietary choices, the results of a survey from a Belgian sample of consumers illustrates that human morality orientations are associated to consumers’ dietary choices.

5. Political values

Associations and engagements with patriarchy are also the main motivations of some consumers. Academics increasingly contend that vegan lifestyle, including following veg*an diets, represents political behaviour. Related literature lacks empirical evidence towards the political motivations of following veg*an diets. Studies by Kalte (2020) on a purposive sample of vegan consumers in Switzerland, shows that many consumers who follow veg*an diets are politically motivated and pursue a change in their societal environment.

6. Social reasons

The last motivation orientation that is classified in altruistic or ethical motives are the social reasons that consumers have to follow veg*an diets. These motives could be simply accompanying family members or friends, or being influenced by them. In addition to influencing by, or accompanying significant others as social motives of following veg*an diets, the current analysis provided novel results that are classified in the social category of motivation orientation. 

7. Health-related motives

No scientific confirmation that the human body needs meat exists, while there is ample evidence of the health and environmental benefits of plant-based diets.” (Bogueva et al.,2017).

Health-related motives of following and maintaining veg*an diets play a critical role in consumers’ dietary decisions. This importance is due to the association of food of animal origin, especially meat, with several diseases such as cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, rheumatism, cardiovascular diseases, obesity or nutritional deficiency. Consequently, consumers who are motivated by the health benefits of following veg*an diets, change their current omnivorous food practices.

Appealing to this segment of veg*an diet followers has made producers utilise new communication strategies, for example the naming of brands such as ‘tofurkey’ (an American vegan food brand that offers turkey replacement products), or meals such as ‘chickun’ (a veg*an chicken replacement offered by McDonald’s in the USA). Name blended labelling can sometimes be confusing for omnivorous consumers and cause disgust for those who follow veg*an diets based on animal-related motives.

8. Sensory/gustatory appeals

Sensory preferences of veg*an foods and dislike/disgust of animal-based food, especially meat is another reason that some consumers encountered. Disliking the sensory attributes of animal-based food such as taste, appearance, smell or texture are examples of animal-origin food dislike. Fessler's (2003) studies on American adults showed that disgust sensitivity to meat is higher in women and younger consumers. Thus, it could be appropriate to conclude these groups are more likely to follow veg*an diets. Previous findings indicate that moral/ethical veg*ans (vs. health-motivated veg*ans) are more disgust sensitive to meat which is a factor that influences meat consumption.

9. Economic considerations

In studies by Bogueva et al. (2017), only one percent of Australian consumers stated the economic unaffordability of meat consumption. It should be taken into account that economic considerations in consumers’ food choices may differ in western countries or other countries with lower purchase power.

While some studies showed that health considerations are the main impetus for change, others identified moral reasons as the main motive of majorities of consumers. Thus, it could be concluded that health-related and animal-related motives are the most common reasons for following veg*an diets. Environment-related reasons and gustatory/sensory preferences are also one of the common motives, but to a lesser extent.  Despite having similar levels of nutritional knowledge, consumers motivated by animal-related motives hold strong dietary convictions that enable them to follow veg*an diets in a stricter manner and for longer durations.

Finally, previous studies showed that motives for following veg*an diets are mainly animal-related and sensory preferences, while the motive of meat-reduction is induced by health-related motives.

The two significant motives for following veg*an diets are animal-related and/or health-related. Studies revealed the fact that the duration of following veg*an diets is associated with the category of motives. For example, consumers who adhere to veg*an diets motivated by animal-related reasons usually practice these diets for longer than other segments. Moreover, albeit categorising different motives in previous studies, associations between these motives are also observed. For instance, previous studies revealed the fact that consumers with animal-related motives show more disgust to animal-derived products, especially meat. Also, the number and influence of different motives seem to change over time. Future research could be focused on studying the changing pattern of consumers’ motives before and during the process of following veg*an diets. 

The current paper has noteworthy implications for (1) the social marketing sector; (2) marketers of vegan food products, and (3) public policies aiming to implement dietary interventions:

Firstly, social marketing interventions such as educational campaigns could implement specific information-based interventions providing other positive consequences of following veg*an diets in addition to animal-related and health-related motives.

Secondly, the variety of different consumer groups based on their motivations of following veg*an diets enables retailers and producers of veg*an foods to design tailored interventions and enhance the success of their marketing communication campaigns such as the provision of specific labels showing both ethical and health benefits of veg*an foods.

Finally, public policies, governments and NGOs involvement in shaping consumers dietary shift to veg*an diets increase the percentage of consumers who have intention to change their food practice. These involvements could be supporting social marketing campaigns and also vegan food producers. The result of previous research suggests that interventions targeting both human health and animal-related simultaneously, may have higher success rates.

Originally written and presented by Gelareh Salehi, Dr. Estela Díaz, and Dr. Raquel Redondo here.



  1. Janssen, M., Busch, C., Rödiger, M., & Hamm, U. (2016). Motives of consumers following a vegan diet and their attitudes towards animal agriculture. Appetite, 105, 643-651.
  2. The Vegan Society. (2020). Innovative statistics. Accessed 10 September 2020.
  3. Ruby, M. B. (2012). Vegetarianism. A blossoming field of study. Appetite, 58(1), 141-150.
  4. Asher, K., & Cherry, E. (2015). Home Is Where the Food Is: Barriers to Vegetarianism and Veganism in the Domestic Sphere. Journal for Critical Animal Studies, 13(1), 66-91.
  5. Fuentes, C., & Fuentes, M. (2017). Making a market for alternatives: marketing devices and the qualification of a vegan milk substitute. Journal of Marketing Management, 33(7-8), 529-555.
  6. Rothgerber, H. (2013). A meaty matter. Pet diet and the vegetarian’s dilemma. Appetite, 68, 76-82.
  7. Solomon, M. R., Bamossy, G., Askegaard, S., & Hogg, M. K. (2006). Consumer behaviour. A European perspective. 3rd ed. Harlow, England, Newyork: Financial Times/ Prentice Hall.
  8. Rosenfeld, D. L., Rothgerber, H., & Tomiyama, A. J. (2020). From mostly vegetarian to fully vegetarian: Meat avoidance and the expression of social identity. Food Quality and Preference, 103963.
  9. Kalte, D. (2020). Political Veganism: An Empirical Analysis of Vegans’ Motives, Aims, and Political Engagement. Political Studies, 0032321720930179.
  1. Bogueva, D., Marinova, D., & Raphaely, T. (2017). Reducing meat consumption: the case for social marketing. Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, 29(3), 477-500.
  2. Fessler, D. M. T., Arguello, A. P., Mekdara, J. M., & Macias, R. (2003). Disgust sensitivity and meat consumption: A test of an emotivist account of moral vegetarianism. Appetite, 41, 31–41.

The views expressed by our Research News contributors are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.

Reg. Charity No: 279228 Company Reg. No: 01468880 Copyright © 1944 - 2024 The Vegan Society