Vegetarians in the U.S., Japan, and China: A Three Country Survey

In Japan, being vegetarian is often associated with having a high level of food consciousness. How about overseas?

Many Japanese believe a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is thought to be mostly prevalent in the west, and that its adoption in Asia is rather limited. However, one of the surprising results of our most recent study is that the highest percentage of vegetarians was found in China, and not the U.S. (to be probed in more depth in our next post on this data).

In Japan, only about 2% of the population identified itself as vegetarian, while the numbers were 20% and 25% in the U.S. and China, respectively.

Interestingly, about 40% of Japanese indicated that they had no particular dietary preferences, a flexibility that was much more limited in the U.S. and China, at about 10%. Clearly, those in the U.S. and China are more particular about the types of food they consume than in Japan.

Distribution by Age

In looking at the number of vegetarians by age, in both the U.S. and China, those in their 30s had the highest number of adopters, with those in their 20s and 40s following. In the US, about 10% of vegetarians were 50 or older, but we didn’t see any older Chinese vegetarians answering the survey. How about in Japan? While we had respondents in every age bracket, there were too few vegetarians overall to get a clear picture of the age distribution.

Distribution by Annual Household Income

When considering the household income of vegetarians, we had hypothesized that the distribution would be skewed towards those with a higher income. In fact, we were surprised to learn that vegetarians were distributed fairly evenly across income brackets. The one possible outlier in this was in China, where people in the highest bracket, with incomes of more than 1 million yuan, were the second largest category group of vegetarians. This disproportional representation perhaps indicates that those with higher incomes in China may be more food-conscious overall.


Although the number of vegetarians is quite small in Japan, it is a widely adopted lifestyle in other countries, with no strong correlations with annual income or age. For Japanese food manufacturers hoping to enter markets overseas, it might be useful to remember that vegetarians consist of over 20% of the population, and that dietary restrictions or preferences are a much larger part of life than in Japan. On the other hand, for those Japanese companies specialized in vegetarian products, they may see greater opportunities overseas than in their home market.

Koeeru offers one stop solutions for collecting, processing, and analyzing multilingual market research surveys online. Utilizing a global panel network with over 100 million respondents in 150 countries, we can reach a wide variety of potential customers. If you have any questions about the present survey, or are interested in conducting your own global market research survey or customer satisfaction survey, please feel free to contact us.

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