The ‘climatarian’ marks next dietary trend in wake of COP26

The ‘climatarian’ diet, which is built upon reduced meat consumption, and, ideally, the adoption of a plant-based diet, has gained increasing attention as global warming continues to dominate the headlines. Research from GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, reveals that the global plant-based meat alternatives sector grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.4% during 2015–2020 to reach $5.9bn; a stark contrast to the saturated $1.32 trillion meat sector, which posted flat growth of 0.9% over the same period.

With over one in four (27%)* of the global population agreeing that they would/have switched to plant-based alternatives for sustainability reasons, it is clear that the rise of the climatarian diet is directly inspired by actions that can be easily adopted to minimise carbon footprint.

George Henry, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “One of the core tenets of the climate diet is shifting the emphasis of production to locally produced foods. Attitudes have changed over the course of the past 18 months as global supply chains suffered under the strain of national lockdowns. This represents a great opportunity to revaluate where we obtain our food from.”

Meat accounts for most greenhouse gas emissions in food production, forcing debate around what further actions can be taken to minimise climate change. The outbreak of COVID-19 has shined a greater spotlight on intensive farming, forcing the food industry to consider how it can further mitigate the risk of zoonotic diseases and decarbonise. This is greatly accelerating the acceptance and adoption of meat alternatives, which is forecast to hit double digits (12.4%) over 2020–2025 to value $10.6bn – albeit still a fraction of the meat industry size.

Henry continues: “In addition to structural changes, however, consumer behaviours will also need to adapt if lower meat consumption is to gain universal adoption. GlobalData’s survey findings reveal that almost three in four (73%)** global consumers already perceive ‘plant-based’ concepts as somewhat or very appealing. People may be subconsciously more accepting of meat and dairy alternatives than they may realize.”

The climatarian diet shares similarities with the ‘flexitarian’ approach to lower meat consumption. This demonstrates how plant-based preferences have evolved from a framing of ethical behavior and animal welfare to climate change. Moving to a plant-heavy diet can also mitigate the problem of food waste, an especially important issue as wastage contributes between 8-10% of global carbon emissions. Deeper emphasis on sustainable food solutions also point to a greater willingness to swap meat for alternative protein sources, such as insect protein or biotechnological innovations such as cultured meat.

Henry adds: “Innovations such as vertical farming present another opportunity to grow fruit and vegetables in a local environment, independent of weather conditions. The uptake of vertical farming is another example of how localized supply chains can replace seasonal imports from abroad, helping to save on carbon emissions. The mass adoption of a ‘climatarian’ approach to food will require more government regulation and pro-active industry to adapt to the concerns of consumer attitudes.”

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