NEARLY one in 13 Spaniards are vegetarians or vegans, and restaurants and food stores are rising to the challenge of catering to a market worth over US$4 billion per year worldwide.
A report titled The Green Revolution, by marketing consultants Lantern, carried out 2,000 telephone interviews on a stratified sample of the population and found that the number of non-meat eaters has risen sharply in the last five years.
Even in the last decade, vegetarianism in Spain was extremely rare, often unknown and frequently frowned upon with even doctors claiming it was impossible to follow a meat-free diet without lacking in essential nutrients.
But now, according to the research, 0.2% are vegan, meaning they do not consume any animal produce whatsoever.
Lantern split vegetarians into sub-categories, including 'pescatarians', who eat fish but not meat, and 'flexitarians', who only occasionally and sporadically consume animal protein, which may or may not include meat.
Of the total of 7.8% who called themselves 'veggies', 6.3% said they were 'flexitarians'.
Nearly 60% of vegetarians said they did not eat meat for 'ethical' or 'animal-loving' reasons – way ahead of the 21% who considered such a diet 'more sustainable' in environmental terms and the 17% who felt it was a healthier way to live.
Although the meat industry could, potentially, suffer if the trend grows too fast, the vegetarian and vegan food production sector has already reported massive growth in Spain.
The number of restaurants and food stores catering exclusively, or partially, to non-meat eaters and non-animal product eaters has more than doubled since 2011, with a total of 800 on record by the end of 2016, The Green Revolution claims.