Iceland Tops Worldwide Rankings for Veganism Popularity
Iceland has topped the worldwide rankings for popularity of veganism for the past twelve months, according to Google Trends data. How did this happen?
Earlier this year, Chef’s Pencil reported on the explosive rise of veganism worldwide and named the top 10 countries where veganism was most popular in 2018. Australia, United Kingdom, and New Zeeland shared the winner’s podium.
Our findings were based on Google Trends data, which lets you analyze the popularity of a category of searches, in this case all vegan-related searches, across the world. The default country breakdown does not include smaller island nations like Iceland, due to their very small population.
However, Google Trends has an option to also chart countries with very small populations. With this option enabled, it is actually Iceland that shows up first as the world’s most popular place for veganism over the past 12 months. The United Kingdom comes second, followed by the islands of Jesrsey and Guernsey, while Australia comes in fifth.
Top 10 Vegan Countries (past 12 months; including low-search volume regions)
- Iceland (100 points)
- United Kingdom (95 points)
- Jersey (94 points)
- Guernsey (91 points)
- Australia (91 points)
- Gibraltar (83 points)
- Bermuda (81 points)
- Cayman Islands (80 points)
- New Zealand (77 points)
- Sweden (75 points)
A closer look at Iceland shows that veganism-related searches such as vegan uppskriftir (i.e. vegan recipes), vegan fæði (i.e. vegan diet), or veganistur have increased steadily since 2013 and are currently at an all-time high. Peak levels are usually at the beginning of the year – probably influenced by Veganuary.
Take the Local Pulse
So what do local vegans say about this? We talked to Linnea Hellström, Head Chef and Owner of Veganæs, an all-vegan dinner, Ragnar Freyr, the man behind the Vegan Iceland app, and Valli Gunnlaugsson, CEO of Íslenska Flatbakan, a pizza joint with lots of vegan dishes on its menu.
Linnea is probably the island’s most popular and fervent vegan. She moved there from Sweden back in 2012 and since then has been on a mission to veganize Iceland. Currently running an all-vegan diner in the capital Reykjavik, Linnea tells Chef’s Pencil that back in 2012 Iceland was probably not ready for an all-vegan place.
Many things have changed since then, says Linnea. The local vegetarian society has evolved into a vegan society, there’s a Sea Shepard Chapter in Iceland, and there are rumors of other vegan businesses opening up.
Linnea has helped many local businesses develop vegan menus and while working at Kafe Vinyl a few years ago, she convinced the owners to turn Kafe Vinyl’s kitchen all-vegan. She started her own place in 2018 and it’s doing extremely well, Linnea says, as they already need more space.
Valli Gunnlaugsson agrees that veganism did not used to be very popular in Iceland and that its popularity rise, which began about four years ago, is currently very noticeable.
Ragnar Freyer tells Chef’s Pencil that he say the biggest increases in veganism popularity in 2017 and 2018, and that Iceland’s largest vegan Facebook community now counts over 22,000 members.
Impact of Tourism on the Popularity of Veganism
Iceland’s booming tourism industry attracts many visitors from countries with strong vegan communities such as Germany, Britain, and the U.S. Both Linnea and Valli agree that tourism has a net positive impact on restaurants with vegan menus. Vegans will always opt for a vegan restaurant and business owners have taken notice.
However, Linnea says that the vegan business would thrive even without tourism as more Icelanders are turning to the plant-based diet.
According to Ragnar Freyer there’s almost no reastaurant in Iceland that doesn’t offer a vegan option any more. And due to the popularity of the Vegan Iceland app, most of these restaurants have them clearly labeled as vegan on the menu.
What’s Making Icelanders Turn to Veganism
On a global level, people turn to veganism because they desire healthier food options, are concerned about climate change, or resent animal cruelty. So what about Icelanders?
Valli Gunnlaugsson, CEO of Íslenska Flatbakan, thinks that it’s because more Icelanders are becoming aware of the animal cruelty driven by the meat industry, as well as the meat industry’s impact on the environment.
Linnea Hellström says it’s about a healthier life style, as well as more awareness about what veganism means and the accessibility of plant-based alternatives (which is maybe a key reason).
Popular Vegan Dishes on the Island
Veganæs most popular vegan dish is Spicy Seitanic Black Bean Burger, which was awarded the best local vegan burger by the Reykjavik Grapevine. Linnea says burgers are the holy grail of a vegan diet and it is very important to nail this one.
Veganæs vegan fried fish ish is also a top seller, which makes sense on an island that is so accustomed to eating fish.
Íslenska Flatbakan’s top vegan seller is the “the fresh one” pizza made with vegan cheese, dades, garlic and fresh ruccola, red onion, tomatoes, and spicy vegan mayo.
Featured image copyright: Jennifer Boyer