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Online Trends

Published July 29th 2020

The Transformation of the Fad Diet

Popular diet trends were once considered to be fads, but our Consumer Research platform reveals they’re now more closely associated with principles than quick-fixes

The adoption of dietary restrictions is going up, according to social media data, especially as complaints about lockdown weight gain rise.

Using our Consumer Research platform, we looked at English-language mentions about vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and sugar-free dietary preferences from January 1 2019 to June 30 2020.

People are adopting these dietary preferences more and more, and they’re doing so for the good of themselves, animals, and the climate.

It’s cool to be vegan

Of all the dietary preferences we looked at, veganism is the strongest and fastest growing.

According to our Consumer Research platform, people discussing vegan diets on social media increased 63% over the last 18 months in comparison to the 18 months prior.

Vegan mentions over the last year

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research | Shows English-language mentions of vegan | Excludes news, RTs, and shares.

The lifestyle, which avoids all animals and animal products like eggs and leather, reached a peak in January this year. The month saw 2m mentions, driven by ‘veganuary’ (when people ‘go vegan’ for the whole month).

What’s trending among vegan consumer conversations?

Our Consumer Research platform found that people discussing vegan preferences often did so in the context of:

  • The best vegan cheese – 705k mentions
  • Vegan fashion – 379k mentions
  • Cruelty free cosmetics – 318k mentions

Popular reasons to decide to go vegan are, according to the data,  animal rights (980k mentions), and the climate crisis (508k mentions).

Vegetarian diets pick up steam

Over the 18 months we studied, we saw more and more people on social media talking about adopting a vegetarian diet. Key reasons, much like for veganism above, included advocating for animal welfare (551k mentions) and mitigating the effects of the climate crisis (288k mentions).

According to our Consumer Research platform, people discussing vegetarian diets on social media increased 25% over the last 18 months in comparison to the 18 months prior.

Mentions of vegetarianism over the last year

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research | Shows English-language mentions of vegetarian, veggie and vegetarianism | Excludes news, RTs, and shares.

Interestingly, mentions about adopting a vegetarian diet peaked in May 2020 (during lockdown) with 552k mentions. Many people talked about doing so as part of trying to create a healthier lifestyle after months of inactivity (232k mentions).

What’s trending among vegetarian consumer conversations?

For social users discussing vegetarian lifestyles from January 1 2019 to June 30, 2020, online conversation was driven by:

  • Healthy vegetarian meal recipes – 660k mentions
  • Encouraging family to adopt dietary change – 272k mentions
  • Help and advice about converting to vegan diet – 167k mentions

Gluten concern continues to grow

For celiacs – people who cannot tolerate gluten, like wheat, rye, and barley – the explosion of gluten-free products and menu items has been a blessing.

But even for non-celiacs, interest in gluten-free diets has continued to increase. According to our Consumer Research platform, we found that mentions had increased 22% in the last 18 months compared to the 18 months prior.

Gluten free conversation over the last year

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research | Shows English-language mentions of gluten | Excludes news, RTs, and shares.

What’s trending among gluten-free consumer conversations?

For people following gluten-free diets and discussing them on social from January 1 2019 to June 30 2020, various topics of conversation rose to the top:

  • The best gluten-free bread brand – 331k mentions
  • The best places for a gluten-free meal – 258k mentions
  • Gluten-free and organic products – 154k mentions

Public enemy number one: Sugar

We’ve been warned for a while by health organizations about how bad sugar can be for our bodies. Their efforts could be paying off, because our Consumer Research platform found that social media mentions of avoiding sugar have increased 16% in the last 18 months, compared to the 18 months prior.

Conversation about avoiding sugar over the last year

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research | Shows English-language mentions of sugar | Excludes news, RTs, and shares.

There were 450k mentions about the health benefits associated with eating less sugar from January 1 2019 to June 30 2020.

What’s trending in consumer anti-sugar conversations?

When we looked at topics of social conversation, we found they were focused on an overall healthier lifestyle:

  • Weight-loss – 96k mentions
  • Gluten-free – 95k mentions
  • Low carb – 89k mentions

These diets aren’t just short-term fads – they are complete lifestyle changes that are growing (both gradually and rapidly) over a long period of time. Often they’re based on personal principles, not just weight loss or staying in-fashion.

It’s very interesting to see that, despite the pandemic and accompanying lockdowns, mentions about converting to these dietary changes have kept trending upwards. This is a time of large scale lifestyle changes, and diet is certainly a part of that.

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