Most people in China will eat more plant-based food when told of the benefits, survey finds

ProVeg finds 98% of Chinese people will eat more plant-based foods when shown the scientific data on the benefits of the diet

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A new report out this week from ProVeg International finds that 98% of Chinese consumers will eat more plant-based foods once they have been informed of the benefits, particularly to their health, of living on a plant-based diet. 

The report, titled “China and Plant-based food: attitudes and opportunities“, is based on a survey of 1,000 people, mainly omnivores and flexitarians, in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, which was carried out in late March and April 2024 to gage knowledge of the benefits of plant-based foods.

The report includes a Matrix which shows which benefits of plant-based eating people most agree with, next to the benefits that would most persuade them to actually change their diet.

“We found that most people are concerned that they eat healthy food and that once they know just how healthy and climate-friendly plant-based food is, they will eat a lot more of it,” Shirley Lu, Managing Director and Asia & China Representative at ProVeg, said. 

“We hope the report will serve as a useful reference for food manufacturers to support educational marketing of plant-based foods in China. There is clearly huge potential for growth and our research will help companies to tap into that,” Lu added. 

Matrix pinpoints most persuasive reasons for going plant-based

Those surveyed were given 15 benefit statements on plant-based foods, 14 of which were based on peer-reviewed international research. Survey participants were then asked to “agree” or “disagree” with the statements. 

They were also asked which of the 15 statements would be most effective in persuading them to eat more plant-based food. This data was then plugged into an “Agreement/Persuasion Matrix” and divided into four quadrants. (The Matrix can be found on page 9 of the report).

Quadrant 1 of the Matrix allows companies to see which statements have both the strongest agreement and the strongest persuasive power. The leading statement in Quadrant 1 states that “plant-based diets tend to lower body mass index (BMI) and reduce obesity rates, and thereby lower rates of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol” 1

Other statements in Quadrant 1 that were both strongly agreed upon and most persuasive for dietary change stated that plant-based diets are high in calcium and bioavailability, provide adequate protein and are iron rich. 

Quadrant 1 statements can be used by food manufacturers to leverage their strong, convincing power for an easy breakthrough into the market.

Quadrant 2 of the Matrix pinpointed which benefit statements received low agreement but were strongly persuasive in terms of getting people to switch to more plant-based food.

The top statement in Quadrant 2 states that plant-based foods allow people to lower their risk of developing antibiotic resistance due to animal-based foods. Notably, this was also the most persuasive statement overall. 

The second highest statement in Quadrant 2 relates to the fact that animal agriculture is responsible for up to 80% of rainforest destruction2, 3, 4. The third highest statement in Quadrant 2 states that beef and dairy milk production are among the biggest sources of methane, which is 80 times more potent than CO2 in terms of a warming effect on the atmosphere over 20 years5, 6

Quadrant 2 statements can be used by manufacturers to enhance awareness to prompt action in favor of more plant-based eating. 

Great willingness to change in China

After hearing all 15 statements on the benefits of plant-based foods and being shown the scientific source material to back them up, a remarkable 98% of total respondents were either “strongly willing” or “willing” to add more plant-based food to their diet.

“China boasts a rich heritage of plant-based diets and a wealth of healthy plant ingredients. Government agencies, educational institutions, and plant-based food businesses can leverage this study to educate consumers about the benefits and impact of plant-based diets,” Lu said.

“By highlighting the health, environmental, and culinary advantages, we can collectively work towards transforming our food system to one that is beneficial for humans, plants, and animals alike,” she added. 

More about the survey 

The survey was carried out by the Kantar Group and presented 15 benefit statements; eight on health, three on the environment, two on animal protection, one on food security and one on taste. 

The report uses the data collected to create an “Agreement/Persuasion Matrix” which helpfully positions the 15 benefit statements to show the extent to which people’s agreement with the statements aligns with their confirmation that the statements would motivate them to change their diets. 

ENDS

Footnotes

  1. Tuso, P. J., Ismail, M. H., Ha, B. P., & Bartolotto, C. (2013). Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets. The Permanente Journal https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/ 
  2.  Poore, J. & T. Nemecek (2018): Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science 360(6392), 987–992. doi:10.1126/science.aaq0216 
  3.  FAO (2022): FRA 2020 Remote Sensing Survey. FAO Forestry Paper No. 186. Rome. https://daoi.org/10.4060/cb9970en.
  4.  Cerri, C.E.P., C.C. Cerri, S.M.F. Maia, M.R. Cherubin, B.J. Feigl & R. Lal (2018): Reducing Amazon Deforestation through Agricultural Intensification in the Cerrado for Advancing Food Security and Mitigating Climate Change. Sustainability. 10, p.989.
  5. Forster, P., T. Storelvmo, K. Armor, et al. (2021): The Earth’s Energy Budget, Climate Feedbacks, and Climate Sensitivity. In Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 923–1054.
  6. Scarborough, P., Clark, M., Cobiac, L., Papier, K., Knuppel, A., Lynch, J., Harrington, R., Key, T., & Spring- mann, M. (2023). Vegans, vegetarians, fish-eaters and meat-eaters in the UK show discrepant environ- mental impacts. Nature Food, 4, 565–57.

Notes to Editors

For media inquiries, contact Peter Rixon at [email protected].

About ProVeg International 

ProVeg International is a food awareness organization with the mission to replace 50% of animal products globally with plant-based and cultivated foods by 2040. Our vision is a world where everyone chooses delicious and healthy food that is good for all humans, animals, and our planet. 

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