It’s all salad to me! Which audiences are trying out plant-based alternatives?

Written by
Tori McBride

Insights by
Ben Montagu-Scott

15 Jul, 2021

The pandemic has led to a drastic rise in vegan eating, and the meat-free, dairy-free and egg-free sectors have skyrocketed as a result. In fact, the vegan alternatives market is expected to reach a global value of $74.2 billion by 2027 according to Research and Markets.

But who is engaging with plant-based foods? Is it just vegans or is the vegan diet really hitting the mainstream?

In the first of a four-part series in collaboration with positive impact brand consultants (S)WEAR, Fifty set out to answer this question by taking a deep dive into some of the leading plant-based brands driving the growth of this industry, including Oatly, Beyond Meat and Tofoo.

Network visualisation of the UK plant-based food market as seen on the Fifty platform.
Fifty network viz of the UK plant-based food audience.


Health emerged as a key driving force behind this growing vegan audience, with Health-Focused Millennials and Gym Bunnies both featuring in our top tribes with a combined audience of over 300k. The focus of these tribes splintered into three subcategories within the health genre: health, nutrition and fitness.

Health-Focused Millennials, a key audience segment within the UK plant-based food market.
Health-Focused Millennials

Within the top influencers of the general health cohort, we uncovered a number of health-focused publications, including Healthy Magazine and Harvard Health Publishing, illustrating a broad interest in the health and medical industry at large.

The combination of fitness-first influencers like Fitness on Toast, as well as high-flying athletes like former heavyweight world champion David Haye, also reflects how veganism is being adopted by a growing number of active audiences looking to boost performance. Veganism is becoming synonymous with physical and mental health.

This tribe's keen interest in nutrition is reflected in the large number of sports supplement companies within their top influencers, such as Bodybuilding Warehouse and MusclePharm, both of which offer plant-based options. Top hashtags included #training, #gym, #strength, as well as #vegan, which tells us that, while it is not their primary concern, this group is interested in plant-based eating and are amenable to vegan messaging connected with fitness.


The appearance of the Sophisticated Foodies, a tribe dedicated to restaurant and chef culture indicates that those interested in veganism no longer associate it with bland or boring foods.

Sophisticated Foodies, a key audience segment within the UK plant-based food market.
Sophisticated Foodies

 This tribe’s top influencers are a mish-mash of food critics like Jay Rayner, as well as top tier chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi and Raymond Blanc, both of whom are known for incorporating plant-based dishes into their recipe books and restaurants and are largely responsible for bringing vegan cuisine into the mainstream.


Our analysis uncovered a swathe of Eco-Conscious Professionals with a strong engagement in global climate action efforts. Top influencers included Al Gore, the Gates Foundation and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), suggesting a keen interest in environmental policy and philanthropy, whereas electric vehicle company Tesla and tech business magazine Fast Company indicate a passion for new technologies.

Eco-Conscious Professionals, a key audience segment within the UK plant-based food market.
Eco-Conscious Professionals

Whether it’s through their choice of media, charitable donations or their purchasing decisions, it is clear that this tribe is looking to engage with climate action in their day-to-day lives and sees adopting a plant-based diet as yet another way of reducing their environmental impact.


Lastly, our study revealed a number of trend-focused consumers interested in music, entertainment and pop culture - progressive lifestylers likely jumping on the vegan bandwagon out of sheer curiosity. The remaining two largest tribes in the study were Stylish Mums and Trendy Gen Z-ers. The fact that these two tribes, which have quite broad interests, both signal a curiosity in plant-based eating shows the growth potential of veganism and, indeed, it’s entrance into mainstream consciousness.

Trend-Seekers, a key audience segment within the UK plant-based food market.
Trend Seekers

Both of these tribes represent the trendy heights that veganism has now reached. Stylish Mums are drawn to the latest food fads and trends by virtue of the publications they read and the content they share. Publications such as Grazia, Glamour and Marie Claire, which have each covered veganism’s newfound popularity, alongside grocery retailers like Waitrose and M&S, who have expanded their range of vegan offerings, may have piqued this group’s interest in plant-based diets.

Another sign that veganism is reaching new audiences is the Tech Professionals tribe. This mostly urban tribe, with audience members located in cities like London and New York, engages in innovation-driven publications like TechCrunch and The Guardian Money, both of which cover startups and new trends, including meat alternative proteins. This tribe reflects the growing link between the tech industry and food innovation, particularly within the meat-free protein space.


Veganism is no longer niche. The COVID-19 pandemic revolutionised how consumers think about plant-based eating and its role in protecting personal and planetary health. Plant-based products, combined with their associated benefits, is evidently attracting a range of audiences beyond the traditional vegan community, which hints at the trajectory of growth for this category into the future.

Stylish Mums, Trendy Gen Z-ers and Tech Professionals represent the future of vegan consumption. While each tribe has their own individual passions, consumes different media and follows different influencers, they share a common interest in vegan alternatives. And, if delivered the right messaging, on the right channels, these audiences could even be swayed to jump on the vegan train in the long-term.

Are you a plant-based business? Book a demo today to discuss how these audience insights can help grow and communicate your brand more effectively.

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