Is Veganism Really The Biggest Trend in the Tech Industry?
March 11, 2020

Veganism is everywhere these days. It's even in Greggs. Home to the humble sausage roll. If you haven’t had their vegan version yet then you probably live under a rock. 

Predictably, with the swell of interest we see that finding vegan friendly items is becoming easier all the time, though no sign of them getting any cheaper! Many high-street stores such M&S, NEXT and Urban Outfitters have jumped on the bandwagon, offering everything from ‘vegan leather’ trainers to a slew of ‘green-washed’ products. I mean, do we really need to label a cotton t-shirt as vegan? It’s almost as infuriating as labelling cheddar cheese as ‘gluten free’. Almost.

Moving on…

With veganism becoming mainstream it comes as no surprise that it’s been touted as the top trend in the tech industry. After all, if the tech industry is good at one thing it’s churning out gadgets, gizmos, solutions and Apps based on the new dawn's buzz.

I’m going to go ahead and say this is primarily because of the tech industry’s exceptionally close alignment with marketing and product development (sales, profit, cha-ching!), not because it is wholly and ethically consumed, on an individual level, by cleaner, greener eating and lowering carbon emissions. Oh, how I wish that it was.

I think I’ve already made my point, but just for the fun of it I wanted to tackle the sweeping generalisation that veganism is the biggest trend in tech; quite prepared to be proven cynical and down-right wrong. So, I put out a begging email asking my colleagues* to put down their cow’s milk lattes and carefully curated keto lunches and take part in a short survey.

Now obviously there needs to be some control to this test, so just to qualify the cohort of respondents as appropriately ‘techie’ I will direct you to our case studies. Satisfied?

Now, if you’re a regular reader of our blog then you probably already know that Etain is a stalwart in the UK and Irish tech industries. In fact, we recently celebrated 20 years delivering our Smarter Software solutions. We were merrily fed and watered and with not a hint of vegan pastrami in sight, in fact we had pork belly and miniature burgers and not one single person asked for gluten-free cheese or hand-pollinated fruit (I’ll explain this bit later). My point being, I'm pretty sure we are an office of meat lovers despite our legitimate representation in this industry supposedly overcome with vegan desires.

So, with this in mind, and armed with the claim that veganism is the biggest trend in the tech industry the results are in…

Are you Vegan?

Shock horror, 100% of respondents said no. Not one single vegan in our ranks.
Have you ever taken part in Veganuary, Challenge 22+, Vegan Easy 30-Day Challenge or any other Vegan challenge? 

A whole 17% of respondents had given one of these vegan lifestyle challenges a blast. I suspect many of these happened in January of this year (Sorry, ‘Veganuary’) if the banter-vacuum was anything to go by. Absolutely nothing to do with the soul-crushing weather after all. Still, 83% of us were still chin deep in burritos and chicken wings.
Have you eaten vegan food in the last 30 days?

Now here’s where things get interesting and is testament to the proliferation of vegan goods flooding the market. 60% of respondents had and 40% hadn’t.
Do you think veganism provides health benefits?

46% of respondents said they felt veganism provided health benefits, with 54% saying they didn’t, or didn’t know.

Now if 60% of respondents ate vegan goods in the last 30 days but only 46% said they believed there were health benefits to this, then there is a discrepancy of 14% that doesn’t quite add up – what motivated them to choose a vegan food snack?

Maybe they ate vegan purely because they were ‘influenced’? Because it was 'cool'? Or maybe they were shamelessly tricked into it? Or perhaps these products are normalising in general?
What was the first thing that caught your interest about veganism?

4% were bold enough to state they came to decision with no outside influence at all, and a further 38% saying they had no interest in veganism whatsoever. None, zilch.

So that leaves 58% influenced in some way by peers, social media and entertainment channels. So, it being ‘trendy’ looks like it just might be enough of a reason to give it a go. Marketers unite! I'd say there's a pretty penny or two in solving the problem of how to convert a trial vegan purchaser into a loyal follower.
Now let’s put this 'trendy' notion to the test…

Do you think you will ever try a period of vegan eating?

A not unexpected 43% gave this question a big fat ‘nope’, while 30% said maybe and 27% were steadfast in their commitment to giving it a blast. So that’s 57% swinging towards the ‘in favour of’ side of things. That’s a pretty close call on the 58% influenced by social media, peers and entertainment channels.

It’s starting to make sense why the tech industry is committing such resources to this burgeoning market. Isn't it?
But let's bring it back down to the personal level. What speaks to the individual? 

Would you buy and eat vegan food if you were getting rewards for your efforts through the use of an App?

The results here surprise me greatly. I mean, who doesn’t like an incentive? Techies, that’s who.

Apparently. 63% of respondents said they wouldn’t be swayed to eat vegan even if there were rewards involved!

This seems at odds with the 57% of respondents that said they would (or might) try vegan eating at some stage. Just goes to show how fickle developers and technical architects can be. 

Sorry Pay-A-Vegan, it doesn’t look like you have a market at Etain HQ.
As someone who works in tech and has tech contacts, do you or have you seen a trend for veganism among your peers?

Another interesting turn of events here. 47% of respondents said they saw a trend for veganism among their peers. I wonder if this was the same 46% (+1%) who said they thought veganism had health benefits and they just assumed that their team mates thought the same? Or perhaps our competitors have a higher ration of vegans to non-vegans in their offices? It wouldn’t be hard, we have none.
Ok, let’s get a bit more market focused and look at perceptions around technology and the emergence of this trend. Do you feel that there is a correlation between an increase in tech disruption and progress gained in ethical food production?

83% of respondents didn’t think there was a connection between the vegan food trend, its proliferation on the market and advances in technology. Perhaps this is unsurprising if people are getting most of their information from social media and blog articles (ahem!). I suppose we should be reassure that at least 17% did see the correlation.
Let’s bring it back to the question itself and evaluate the awareness of the trend then...

Did you know that Veganism is now the biggest trend in the tech industry?

93% didn’t have a clue it was the ‘biggest trend in tech’. That says a lot.
Then we got hard hitting and asked respondents for some ideas on how to feed 9 billion people by 2050. Before we proceed, let’s just state for the record here that if any of these go into production we said it here first (maybe)…
The world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050 and climate change is expected to deliver catastrophic changes to our ability to grow produce and feed livestock, aka feed a burgeoning population. Using technology, how do you envisage positive change for the future of food production?
Some great answers here…and some people straight up didn’t understand the question. Here’s a handful of the best or most entertaining answers:

  • Technology isn't the answer, stop eating animals is.

  • ??

  • The ability to grow food in artificial conditions

  • Sustainable meat production which provides all nutrients in the way it is intended.

  • Killer robots to reduce world population

  • Artificial protein / increase in non-meat protein production, e.g. soy

  • Eat chips ... microchips :-)

  • GMOs

  • Creating meat in a lab

  • Some sort of tech/system that makes growing at home easier/quicker

  • I don't know how sustainably it is produced but recently I have been following another trend I discovered in the tech industry which is the use of meal replacement drinks which also happen to be vegan, in my case Huel. I wasn’t attracted to it because it was vegan but rather because of its efficiency and relative nutritional benefits compared to my previous diet which was mostly meat and carbs.

  • Use of Robotics and Machines - reducing the cost of fresh food and increasing productivity.  In agriculture the use of drones could monitor crop yields, soil levels, and weather patterns to increase efficiency on farms and identify diseased or damaged crops.

  • They have been saying this since 1920s, they said that the population would be ‘x’ billion by 1960 and we wouldn’t be able to feed everyone, it was wrong then and it’s wrong now.

  • hmm, let me think about that one

  • Better technology for farmers to do their jobs and funding to support them in their efforts

  • Lab grown meats and use of fungi in mock-meat production

And last but not least…after that rollercoaster of emotions we asked respondents if figs are vegan?

Almost neck and neck with this one. 47% said No and 53% said yes.

Remember earlier I made a quip about hand-pollinated fruit? Hop on over to Google and ask if Figs are vegan and I doubt you’ll ever eat another one unless its hand-pollinated in some way. I don't even know if that's possible!
So, there you have it. We are no wiser than when we first questioned if veganism really is the biggest trend in the tech industry is. But didn’t we have fun along the way?
*70 staff were approached and 30 responded. I’m taking that as a major victory!

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