Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Christine Van Dusen, August 11, 2005
Carolyn S. Englar, dinnertime in the dining center at Emory
University was a lot like a scavenger hunt. With tray in hand, she
weaved through the aisles, peering behind counters and under sneeze
guards, searching for food --- something besides apples and
peanut butter --- that would fit her vegetarian diet. The dining hall
"wasn't particularly great with veggie options," said
Englar, a 20-year-old from Maryland who is entering her junior year.
She may have better luck once she graduates from the dining center to
the supermarket and trades her tray for a cart. Traditional
grocery stores are dedicating more dollars and shelf space to
meatless products for the nation's growing number of vegetarians.
25 percent of college students say it's important their
schools offer on-campus meals that don't contain meat, fish, poultry
or other animal products, according to a recent study by Aramark, a
provider of food and facilities management for colleges and other
institutions. While meatless eating may be a passing fad for some
students, for others veganism --- and its less-strict sibling,
vegetarianism --- is a lifestyle choice they'll hold on to long after
join an ever-growing population of vegetarians of every age who are
pursuing non-meat diets for political reasons, health concerns or
simply because they don't like the stuff. Even carnivores are more
often forgoing beef, pork, poultry and fish --- it's
estimated that between 35 percent and 50 percent of U.S. adults now
eat two to three meatless meals per week, according to the
Vegetarian Resource Group, a Maryland-based nonprofit group.
traditional supermarkets are slowly adding meatless
products while placing greater emphasis on the category in the
stores. This allows the shops to meet increasing demand while
addressing competitive pressure from stores such as Whole Foods,
known for its wide array of fresh vegetarian options. "It's a
clearly defined market segment that can't be ignored," said Todd
Hultquist, spokesman for the Food Marketing Institute,
an industry trade group.
That doesn't mean meat will be pushed
out of freezer cases in favor of veggie burgers, Tofurky and
non-chicken nuggets. Demand for meat products remains strong.
Traditional grocery stores please those customers as well as the
non-meat eaters, and there are only so many shelves.
now, vegetarian-type products occupy a fairly small space in most
supermarkets. And that's an improvement, according to the
Vegetarian Resource Group. "In the supermarket, things are
much better for vegetarians compared to 10 or 15 years ago," said John L. Cunningham, consumer research manager for the research
Sarah Blum would agree. The 22-year-old
recently graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County,
and now shops for vegan foods at her grocery store in Maryland. She
wishes there were a wider selection of soy products. "It's on
their radar screen. It's gotten better over the years," said
Blum, who now works as an editor at the Vegetarian Resource Group.
"But it leaves something to be desired."
of the problem may be that vegetarianism has grown quietly and slowly
and hasn't burst onto the scene with a public relations blitz ---
unlike, say, the recent low-carb diet craze, which inspired
a rapid and sizable response from grocery stores.
came in like gangbusters," said Marcia Mogelonsky, senior
research analyst and author of a study on meat-reduced diets for Mintel Group, an international market research firm. "Vegetarianism has been around so long, and its rise is not as
manufacturers have continued to battle against the myth that "good-for-you" foods can't taste good, she said.
So the change at grocery stores has
21 new products were introduced as "vegetarian" in the
United States in 2001, according to the Global New Products
Database. That number rose to about 94 in 2003,
2001, vegetarian and organic items occupied one 8-foot-long shelf in
any given Publix grocery store, said company
spokeswoman Brenda Reid. Gradually those products, most under the
store's "GreenWise Market" label, were interspersed
throughout the supermarket. They now take up much more designated
"The manufacturing and retail
communities have both been providing more options," Hultquist
in the past soy milk was difficult to find in a traditional
grocery store, the beverage now stands side-by-side with cartons of
traditional cow's milk and is often produced by the same company.
bought vegetarian food company Boca in early 2000, and got
its veggie burgers into markets and stores that the smaller company
wouldn't have been able to penetrate on its own. Kellogg did
the same with Worthington Foods, and its Morningstar Farms
meatless lasagna and spicy black bean burgers, in late 1999.
downside of these deals, Cunningham said, is "the large
companies don't have the same ideological and philosophical
commitment to vegetarianism, and may therefore make compromises that
may upset parts of the community, such as fortifying a product with
Vitamin D derived from lanolin rather than one derived from
supermarkets still don't typically offer such products as
soy cheese without milk proteins, he said, or cheese without rennet,
which comes from the stomach lining of unweaned mammals and has an
enzyme that curdles milk for cheese production.
"So to sum up, yes, there has been
some improvement. But there is still more progress to be made,"
Cunningham said. "Grocery markets and producers are not taking
advantage of the opportunity to reach this market to the extent that
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