(From left to right) Ms. Lee Lam Ying, Ms. Siu Lok Hei, Ms. Wong Wing Tung, and Ms. Tang Chung Yan explored the local vegetarian trend.
When it comes to vegetarian food, what pops up in your mind? Chinese vegetarian restaurants, western salad, or vegetarian products sold in supermarkets? In recent years, vegetarian culture has become more popular, and has broadly spread throughout non-vegetarian restaurants, communities, and even our daily lives. Chung Chi alumni Ms. Siu Lok Hei and Ms. Wong Wing Tung, together with Chung Chi students Ms. Lee Lam Ying and Ms. Tang Chung Yan, collaborated on the “GECC4130 Final Year Project” of the General Education course with the theme “The Reason Why Hong Kong Vegetarian Culture Becomes More Popular”. They explored the trends of local vegetarian culture and found out how the popularity of vegetarian culture rejuvenates personal lifestyles and our community.
The research team interviewed with Ms. Tiffany Cheung, Nutritionist and Assistant Programme Manager of Green Monday (1st left) and had a better understanding of how non-government organisations promote vegetarian culture.
Q: Why vegetarian culture was taken as the theme of your Final Year Project?
With reference to an article from Greenpeace, vegetarian diets are not only healthy, but also have significant impacts on climate change and animal rights.* Hong Kong is renowned for being a “Food Paradise” and “International Metropolis”. How does the city make a difference amid the vegan craze? It was our research direction. Driven by various factors, Hong Kong vegetarian culture has become more popular in recent years. We aspired to explore the reasons why Hong Kong vegetarian culture has been so prevalent and developed rapidly, and its positive impacts on personal diets and society from a macro perspective.
Q: Could you elaborate on your research direction? How to collect the data required?
The existing studies on vegetarian culture mostly focus on nutritional values, the impact on human health, and why people go vegetarian, whereas research studies on the social phenomenon of Hong Kong vegetarian culture are inadequate. We hope our research can fill the gap between these two areas. The vegetarian types that we studied are classified into five categories, namely lacto-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian, ovo-lacto-vegetarian, vegan, and flexitarian. We conducted a questionnaire survey with Hong Kong citizens aged between 18 and 65 years old. Besides, we had interviews with founders of vegetarian restaurants, vegetarian KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders), as well as social enterprises for vegetarians, through which we have a better understanding of the operating concepts of vegetarian food suppliers, the impact of social media on vegetarian culture, and the actions taken by non-government organisations and their effectiveness. We also paid a visit to vegetarian restaurants to get to know consumer preferences towards vegetarian diets and the diversity of vegetarian culture.
The research team conducted a field study at a branch of Green Common and got to know some vegetarian products in Hong Kong: (from left to right, top to bottom) vegan meat (plant-based pork), vegan snacks (vegan gummies and chocolate), vegan microwave food (plant-based pork with rice), and vegan beverages (vegan oak milk and rice milk).
Q: What social impacts brought about by vegetarian culture are reflected in your research findings?
With reference to the research findings, there are a broad variety of sources of vegetarian food, including vegetarian and non-vegetarian restaurants, as well as vegetarian food suppliers. Vegetarian eateries include Chinese and western vegetarian restaurants, vegetarian buffets, and vegetarian cafes, among others. Some non-vegetarian eateries like chain restaurants or food delivery platforms partner with vegetarian restaurants to provide various vegetarian meals. According to our questionnaire survey, 70% of the respondents had vegetarian meals at non-vegetarian restaurants, and 60% agree that there is a greater variety of vegetarian dishes offered by non-vegetarian restaurants in Hong Kong. The diversity of vegetarian food not only enhances its accessibility and attractiveness, but also boosts its affordability for local people.
Non-government organisations promote vegetarian culture by organising and implementing publicity and educational events, such as seminars, exhibitions, workshops, and visits, to reach out to schools and communities. According to our findings, the respondents are concerned about the food production process and principles of vegetarian food on environmental grounds, and intend to choose vegetarian food that is less harmful to animal health. Concerning social media, famous vegetarians and KOLs give advice on healthy vegetarian diets, triggering celebrity effects. On the other hand, the coronavirus pandemic also had significant impacts on the vegetarian trend. In 2020, the number of vegetarian restaurants that food delivery platforms partnered with surged continuously. Besides, working people have cultivated cooking habits while working from home, and in turn understood home cooking is healthier and become keener on vegetarian diets. All these are positive influences brought about by vegetarian culture.
Greenpeace, “Vegetarians’ Confession: Changing Dietary Habits is a Commitment,” 10 April 2020 (In Chinese only), http://www.greenpeace.org/taiwan/update/15850/素食者的告白：改變飲食習慣是一種承諾.