Vegetarianism is on the rise. Apparently, meat is bad.
Toronto has become a ‘world’s hottest destination’ for vegetarian restaurants.
These are very real trends that will have a profound impact on the wine world.
So … let’s talk about this. It seems like more people are choosing a plant-based diet for a number of reasons, including:
- Your health – heart disease, cancer, weight, aging effects and other health issues are moderated by a better plant diet
- Cost – in most cases, plant-based proteins are less expensive than meat. Unfortunately, some numbers prove otherwise, with beans, legumes and other proteins costing more than a burger or chicken thigh.
- Design – apparently, our teeth are only designed to chew veggies and plants. We don’t have the right teeth to tear flesh. Lots of room for debate on this. I, for one, have had no problem chewing meat in the past.
- Ethical reasons – I find this one of the more credible arguments for choosing or increasing a plant-based diet. Of course, as a no-excuses smart ass, I want to ask ‘if plants screamed, would this be an issue?’
- Reducing world hunger – more food can be made with less land when it’s plant-based only.
- Carbon footprint – China has announced that their meat diet will be cut by 50% by 2030.
Let’s talk about the impact of the last article: China will reduce their meat consumption by approximately 1 billion metric tonnes per year (about 2.2 TRILLION pounds) by the year 2030.
This step acknowledges the environmental impact of meat production on a global basis. Annually, the production of meat for human consumption contributes to about 15% of global carbon emissions.
That’s a LOT of gas. (And yes, most of the emissions are farts).
The following image shows the carbon footprint of different diets:
Whither the Wine World?
Given these figures, what does this mean for the wine business?
By 2030, I have no doubt that the Chinese will also be the world’s largest wine producers, grape growers, wine owners (ie. owners of facilities outside China), wine exporters and, most importantly, wine consumers.
And if they also represent the largest base of plant-based diets, what’s the point in describing your wine as ‘going well with roast beef and jus drizzled on top’ or ‘pairs well with a nice spicy chunk of chorizo’?
We’re going to need to find better comparisons and food pairings if anyone who makes wine is going to actually sell wine.
Right now, Americans are currently the world’s largest consumers of wine.
Pair that with the fact that the volume of North American vegetarians – about 3-4% of the population – is low. Those that are ‘vegetarian-inclined’ (think ‘Meatless Mondays’) quickly bring this number to nearly 10% of Americans.
With the average American getting about 90% of their protein diet from meat, why would someone currently care about how they describe their wine unless they’re comparing it to an animal-based product?
So … response will be slow.
However, we now know that the shift will happen and that great vintages can take years and maybe even decades to mature.
As the Chinese and more people around the world look at a plate of veggies, fruit, legumes and other non-meat diets, wine producers had better find ways to describe your wine as a perfect match with plant-based products.
Doing so now will be well advised.
Look for my next article where I start to explore a plant-based diet’s impact on wine tasting.
In the interim, at Drinky.ca, we’re working on some new descriptions and food matching that will be a little more encompassing of a broader diet. Stay tuned!