Vegan, Vegetarian or Halal? How Many Europeans Follow a Special Diet?

From gluten-free to lactose-free, vegan, pescetarian, or vegetarian, healthy eating is in vogue, especially here in Berlin. Just take a stroll down any street and you’re likely to see for yourself why this is considered one of the best cities for “clean eaters”. As a Berlin-based team who has devoured it’s fair share of vegetarian fare, Dalia was interested in exploring this culinary question from a data-driven perspective. So we asked 5 thousand Europeans in a census-representative survey across the major EU countries to find out how many people adhere to dietary restrictions. For this survey the following dietary categories and definitions were included:


Pescetarian: The only kind of meat I eat is fish

Vegetarian: I don’t eat any meat

Vegan: I don’t eat meat or any other animal byproducts

Lactose-free: I don’t eat dairy products

Gluten-free: I don’t eat gluten

Religious diet: I follow a diet according to my religion (e.g. Halal, Kosher, etc.)

[None of these]

[Not sure]

(Respondents could select all answers that apply)


The results show that contrary to what this often vocal community would have you believe, vegans make up only a very small percentage of the population in France, Spain, Germany and the UK. Veganism is highest in the UK at 3% and lowest in Germany at just 1%. Pescetarianism and gluten-free diets have slightly higher numbers, with the highest share for both still in the UK. Spain boasts the highest share of those who follow a lactose-free diet (8%), though compared to the other countries in the survey, Spain has lower numbers in all other categories. Germany (8%) and the UK (6%) have the largest shares of those following a religious diet. France* and Spain both have 82% who say they don’t follow a diet. *As Fred, Dalia’s French employee says, “…this is not surprising. We are notoriously laissez-faire about food, and the last thing a French person wants is to get rid of rich, buttery cheese and red meat.” Well said. Confirming more suspicions, there is in fact a difference in how millennials and their older counterparts eat. Those under 30 are far more likely to have a limited diet. The gap is largest in Germany: 29% of those under 30 following one of the listed diets compared to just 17% of Germans older than 30.

Among these diets, the largest age gap exists among followers of religious diets. In Germany there is a 5 percentage point gap between under 30s and over 30s. In France the gap is at 8 percentage points. It is of note that France accepts a large share of immigrants from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, and, in Germany, Turkish people are the largest immigrant group. Immigrants hailing from Muslim-majority countries are likely to only eat halal* food, and immigrants in general tend to be younger than the European population. (In 2015 the median age of immigrants to the EU was 28 while the median age of the total EU population was about 43). Compared to France and Germany, the UK and Spain have fewer Muslim immigrants, which could explain these differences in diet by age.

*halal means food that is lawful or permissible to eat according to Islamic law, as opposed to haram, which is forbidden. Haram foods and beverages include alcohol, pork, other animals and related by-products. Meat must also be slaughtered according to traditional Islamic practice.



All in all, if the youth are any indication, greater food consciousness is here to say. As long as people are careful not to take their diets to dangerous extremes, that’s probably a good thing for society’s overall health as vegetarianism and plant-centric diets tend to be associated with lower mortality and decreased risk for heart disease and cancer. So, go bravely forth and buy some greens.  

Image by Anurag Arora