For many consumers, the desire to nurture and protect the environment has motivated the decision to follow a vegan diet. However, the ‘low carbon’ diet could potentially attract a greater following than veganism due its relatively more flexible approach to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with one’s diet.

In fact, 60% of global consumers find ‘low carbon footprint’ to be an appealing food and drink claim, compared with 39% of global consumers who find ‘vegan’ to be an appealing food and drink claim, according to GlobalData’s 2019 Q3 global consumer survey.

Whereas veganism does not permit the consumption of any animal or animal-derived products, the low carbon diet allows for the consumption of any food/drink items as long as they align with the broader goal of reducing the carbon emissions of one’s overall diet. This could include reducing meat and dairy consumption, increasing one’s intake of local foods, and reducing food and packaging waste.

This diet also recognises that not all vegan foods have a low carbon footprint. For example, exotic fruits that require importation from abroad. It is for this reason that Lele’s vegan café in London recently announced that it will no longer include avocado in its dishes to avoid ‘indirectly fuelling illegal deforestation and environmental degradation’. The appeal of a low carbon diet, therefore, spans consumers who are already vegan and those who simply want to reduce their carbon footprint, hence its broader appeal.

In future, ‘low carbon’ certifications could become mainstream and serve as a way of verifying the environmental impact of a food/drink. This goes beyond simply indicating the absence of animal or animal-derived products, which vegan certifications signal.