Impacts of vegetarian options in cafeterias

Impacts of vegetarian options in cafeterias

Increasing plant-based diets in high-income countries would benefit public health and the environment.

To determine whether availability influences meal selection, researchers conducted 2 studies and analyzed weekly data collected from 3 cafeterias at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, comprising a total of 94,644 meals purchased in 2017.

The authors collected observational data from 2 cafeterias and experimentally controlled the number of vegetarian meals in a cafeteria by having the vegetarian meals range from 16.7% to 50% of the options.

The authors found that increasing the proportion of vegetarian meals to 50% of the meal options increased vegetarian meal sales by 61.8% and 78.8% in the observational cafeterias and by 40.8% in the experimental cafeteria.

Examining the meal purchase history of diners who paid with their university cards, the authors found that diners who were least likely to purchase vegetarian meals before the experiment had the greatest change in likelihood of purchasing a vegetarian meal as vegetarian options increased.

Further, providing more vegetarian options did not greatly affect overall sales or lead to lower sales of vegetarian meals at other mealtimes.

The results suggest that increasing vegetarian options can reduce the amount of meat purchased for meals, according to the authors.