CHICAGO, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Few U.S. adults follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diets, but occasional vegetarians -- also called flexitarians -- are increasing in America, researchers say.
Karen Nachay, associate editor of Food Technology magazine, said flexitarians can be categorized into two groups, semi-vegetarians and meat reducers.
Semi-vegetarians follow a vegetarian diet part of the time, but still eat some meat and dairy products. Meat reducers are not trying to follow a vegetarian diet, but are just trying to reduce the amount of meat they eat.
Manufacturers are increasingly targeting these groups with better-tasting products, attractive packaging and product variety, Nachay said.
Updates in processing technologies, food flavors and sauces are making it possible for vegetarian food manufacturers to create foods with more meat-like textures, better flavor and convenience that are more appealing to flexitarians -- unlike the earlier bland and tough vegetarian burgers that usually only die-hard vegetarians would eat, Nachay said.
Up until recently, soy and wheat protein were the main proteins used in vegetarian meal options, but because so many people have soy and wheat protein allergies, vegetable protein, from sources such as peas, beans and chickpeas are being used, Nachay said.