Business opportunity in vegan food industry: Evidence from customers living in Ho Chi Minh City

Ph.D. Thanh - Lam Nguyen (Office of International Affairs, Lac Hong University)


Veganism is becoming more and more prevalent in several countries as it is popularly recognized as a nutritional and remedial dietary profile. Previous researches mainly focus on the impacts of vegan diet on either the life quality of patients of some diseases or separate components of quality of life, thus leaving open space for this study to investigate the relationship between vegan diet and life quality of ordinary people regardless of their personal health problems. Through formal surveys of 704 people living in Ho Chi Minh City with the WHOQOL-BREF instrument which is proposed by World Health Organization and multiple linear regression analyses, this study found positive and strong impacts of vegan diets on their quality of life. In addition, vegan diet, spirituality and the interaction between spirituality and diet knowledge were found as the three most important determinants positively improving the overall quality of life. From these findings, some managerial implications are proposed to promote vegan diets and business opportunity in vegan food industry in particular as well as improve quality of life in general.

Keywords: Vegan food industry, business opportunity, vegan foods, quality of life.

 1. Introduction

Recently, more and more people pursuit vegan lifestyle for different reasons, such as personal health, spiritual beliefs, environment issues, etc. (Dagnelie and Mariotti, 2017; Allès et al., 2017) because vegan has been considered as a nutritional and remedial dietary profile (Melina et al., 2016). Hence, vegan-labelled foods are most preferred (Guillemette & Cranfield, 2012); Le & Sabate (2014) and Mann (2014) claimed that vegan diets positively support food industries. Also, in today’s green society, young people prefer to take vegan lifestyle (Barr, 2015). Therefore, vegan lifestyle is still an interesting and enticing research topic to be further explored.

Practically, Gluba-Brzózka et al. (2017) and Barr (2015) pointed that vegan diets provide enough nutrients for a healthful eating. However, many people believe that long-term consumptions my result in poor nutrition and negative effects on health (Paxman, 2016). In Vietnam, due to cultural beliefs and traditional stereotypes about the lifestyle (Marsh, 2012), more than 99% of the population prefer to have meat in their meals (Leahy, 2010). In fact, more and more Vietnamese are taking vegan lifestyle and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), the largest and most crowded city in Vietnam, is one of the top 10-vegan-friendly cities in Asia (PETAASIA, 2017). The citizens of HCMC are usually referred to as Saigonese because the former name of HCMC was Saigon City. In Vietnam, there are two major categories of the vegan diets, including: (1) “người ăn chay trường” (permanent vegan) which is referred to those pertaining to vegan lifestyle for the rest of their lives, and (2) “người ăn chay định kỳ” (periodic vegan) which is referred to those following a seasonal pattern of vegan diet.

From our personal talks with the Saigonese vegans, when asking about the quality of their lives, we discover that they tend to be more optimistic and contented in their lives with their tranquil minds. Is there any statistical relationship between vegan diet and the quality of life (QoL)? Consequently, this paper aims at exploring the impacts of vegan diets on QoL by conducting formal surveys of Saigonese vegans about their diet practice, their personal characteristics and perceived QoL from four important domains so that we can have comprehensive views and holistic understanding of their veganism before proposing some managerial implications to promote vegan diets throughout communities, develop business opportunity in vegan food industry and improve the life quality of the citizens.

2. Literature reviews

2.1. Quality of Life

Many scholars, such as Barcaccia et al. (2013), Holmes (2005), Pais-Ribeiro (2004), Moons et al. (2006), and Rosenberg (1995) claimed that quality of life (QoL) is an abstract notion and there has been no certain definition commonly agreed in the existing literature. Thus, QoL can be differently assessed with different approaches (Farquhar, 1995). Bowling (2005) provided a comprehensive review on frequently used measures. Among them, WHOQOL-100 and WHOQOL-BREF are more preferred in practice due to their robust effectiveness in the measurement performance in cross-cultural studies (WHOQOL Group 1998; Power et al. 1999). However, WHOQOL-100 is a lengthy questionnaire and its short version, WHOQOL-BREF is considered a perfect substitute (WHOQOL Group, 1998; Skevington et al., 2004). Recent study by Boldt (2018) further confirms the validity of WHOQOL-BREF in measuring QoL. Thus, it is strongly believed that WHOQOL-BREF is suitable to be effectively used to measure QoL of the participants in this study.

2.2. Vegan Diet

Vegan diet in principle abstains from animal products, including meat, dairy products, eggs, and honey (Christopher et al., 2018; Strecker, 2015; Appleby, 2011; Craig and Mangels, 2009). Many scholars such as White (2018), Boldt (2018), Christopher et al. (2018), Mariotte (2017), etc. discovered several benefits from vegan lifestyle in terms of nutrition, health benefits and human daily activities, etc. However, several stereotypes such as insufficient energy, nutrients and vitamins (Brown et al., 2017), and adverse effects on personal relations and social belonging still exist.

However, due to the stereotypes about vegan lifestyle, many people think that it is more suitable for females instead of males (Schosler et al., 2015; Sieverding, 2002), thus, reducing their life satisfaction as well as perceived congeniality within a social group (Boldt, 2018), and resulting in social isolation and disconnectedness in omnivorous groups (Hoffman, 2017). In spite of these stereotypes, many vegans have gathered together in groups or societies to overcome such negative feelings and promote vegan lifestyle in responding to protecting the living environment against the climate change because animal husbandry consumes too much water, land, crops and energy (Gerbens-Leenes, 2017), i.e. it negatively impacts on the environment with global warming and climate change (Cleveland and Gee, 2017).

2.3. Research Models

Through the literature reviews, it can be concluded that vegan lifestyle brings various benefits to human life; especially to different domains of QoL, but not overall QoL. This study investigates its impacts on the overall QoL. Moreover, in the case of Vietnam where Buddhism plays critical role in the spirituality of most Vietnamese, especially the Southerners, another factor named “Spirituality” is also considered in this study. Besides, following a vegan lifestyle needs a persistent mind with a sufficient knowledge about vegan diet. Consequently, diet knowledge and some respondents’ sociodemographic characteristics are believed to have significant impacts on the overall QoL. Therefore, this study proposes a research model as shown in Figure 1.

Fig. 1: Proposed research model

proposed_research_model 3. Research method

In this study, we first conducted a qualitative research with 94 Saigonese having their lunches at vegan restaurants in HCMC in July 2019 to capture key affecting factors or actual reasons for their vegan diets. We found that among several reasons explained, there are two major determinants, including: (1) spirituality, relating to their personal religiosity, their soul, their personal desires/ praying for something, their emotional hurts, etc.; and (2) health, relating to their weight, their indigestion/ illnesses, their new tastes, etc. Vietnam is in tropical region; thus, there are plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts to create variety of delicious vegan dishes. However, about 45% of the investigated participants are permanent vegans and while others usually take vegan diets 2 days (on 1st and 15th of every Lunar calendar month), or 4 days/month, 10 days/month, etc. Therefore, the “vegan diet” used in the Figure 2, Figure 3 and Figure 4 is measured by the frequent level of a person having “vegan diet” in a month; specifically, it will take a value in [1,5] where: 1 denotes for no more than 4 days/month, 2 denotes for 5-10 days/month, 3 denotes for 11-20 days/month, 4 denotes more than 20 days/month but not permanent vegans nor strict vegans, and 5 denotes for permanent vegans and strict vegans.

Regarding to the “Spirituality”, by adapting some items from the Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness/ Spirituality (BMMRS) developed by FINIAWG (1999), we asked participants to evaluate the presence of religious values and beliefs in their mind, how much they trust in God/Buddha, how often they go to temple/church, to what extent their religion gets involved in their day-by-day problems, etc. and give an overall evaluation of the extent they consider themselves as a religious/spiritual person in a 5-point scale (1: not at all ® 5: very). For simplicity, the overall evaluation is used as the observed variable for “Spirituality”. Theoretically, a person with higher evaluation tends to more pursuit vegan diet and better QoL.

Similarly, in the “Diet knowledge”, we asked participants to evaluate themselves how much they know general nutrition, what are good for health, how to take the most advantage of the foods consumed; especially, their knowledge of the benefits of vegan diet and vegan nutrition. Theoretically, the more they are aware, the more they will have vegan diet and the higher their QoL will be. After the particular evaluation, an overall judgement of the extent of their diet knowledge based on 5-point scale (1: scrappy ® 5: profound) is used as the observed variable for “Diet knowledge”.

Before conducting official survey, we utilized a draft questionnaire in a pilot test with another five groups of 48 people at two temples and a vegan restaurant to clarify the word usage and meaning of the measures. From the pilot test and the traditional WHOQOL-BREF items, we refined and upgraded the questionnaire with sociodemographic characteristics such as gender, age, marriage, income and education which may have significant impacts on the vegan diet and QoL. Especially, each participant should evaluate the importance level of each domain constructing their own QoL, which is used to magnify the effects of a domain compared to others because each person has his/her own living focuses; thus, this study considers not only the evaluated values of the four domains but also their weighted ones by multiplying relevant transformed score of each domain with its importance level. The weighted approach is considered as an individualized approach to effectively measure QoL with a 5-point scale (1: very poor ® 5: very good). Variables used in this study are coded as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Coding related variables


To obtain the research objectives, this study uses traditional multiple linear regression models with ordinary least squares approach. Specifically, with the codes in Table 1 and the model presented in Figure 1, Table 2 shows possible regression models to be investigated in this study.

Table 2. Multiple linear regressions models to be investigated

multiple_linear_regressions_models_to_be_investigated4. Empirical results

We used the upgraded questionnaire in an official survey in August 2019. We directly delivered 1,500 hard copies to those on their pilgrimages, vegan restaurants/ roadside food stalls located in 19 districts of HCMC. However, there were only 973 pieces collected; among them, 269 pieces appeared invalid because several important measures were left unchecked. Consequently, only 704 valid observations were used in this study.

4.1. Sociodemographic profiles

Table 3 briefly presents the descriptive statistics of the 704 participants. Among them, males account for less than 22% because it is commonly believed that vegan diet fails to provide enough nutrition and energy, especially for male; 80% of the participants are more than 30 years old and most of them are married. These figures well represent the reality of vegan diet in HCMC as well as in Vietnam as a general case. More and more people, especially those with high income and/or higher education, tend to have vegan diets as their alimentary therapeutics to improve their health.

 Table 3. Sociodemographic profiles of participants


4.2. Regression model LM1

As shown in Table 2, LM1 shows relationship between VEGD and other eight independent variables, including GEND, AGER, MARR, MINC, EDUC, SPIR, KNOW, and SPIR´KNOW. Among the eight variables, only MARR, KNOW and SPIR´KNOW are found statistically significant as shown in Table 4.  With the VIF values less than 2, no collinearity is found in the model LM1.

Table 4. Regression results of Model LM1


With b=+0.162 and sig. ≤ 0.001 for MARR, it is concluded that people tend to take more and more vegan diet after they get married because their family lives make them more stressed to earn a good living in such a crowded city like HCMC; especially, those as widows/ widowers usually feel wretched in their soul; thus, vegan diet works as their moral supports and good remedies for spiritual lives. Though spirituality was found as one of the two critical determinants of vegan diets as discussed in Section 3, SPIR is found insignificant in the model LM1. As a matter of fact, unless getting to clearly know the benefits in terms of physical health and psychological health brought by vegan diets as well as how to have correct vegan healthy foods, they fail to have enough perseverance to pursuit vegan diet in a long run although they are quite spiritual because it is commonly misconceived that vegan diets lead to serious health problems. However, the spirituality plays crucial roles in promoting vegan diet if its benefits are effectively introduced and explained. That’s why the interaction between SPIR and KNOW is found significant in this study (b=+1.064, sig. £ 0.001). With b=-0.382 and sig. £ 0.001 of KNOW, it is concluded that those with better knowledge of diet usually less pursuit vegan diet because they preferably take various sources for their favorite foods and nutrition supplements to satisfy their meat-eating habits. However, once interacted with spirituality aspects, the good knowledge of diet will positively and strongly urge them to take vegan diets.

4.3. Regression model LM2

With the same token, this subsection presents empirical results from regression model LM2 to investigate the impacts of the 11 factors on the overall QoL (OQOL). The low values of VIF in Table 5 indicate that no collinearity is found in these models. The analysis results are shown in Table 5 where vegan diet (b=+0.378, sig. £ 0.001), interaction SPIR´KNOW (b=+0.308, sig. £ 0.001) and spirituality (b=+0.262, sig. £ 0.001) are the most important factors affecting the overall QoL of the Saigonese. Other factors such as age, monthly income and education also have positive influences on their QoL. Though marital status has negative on their physical health and psychological health, it has no significant influence on their overall QoL.

Table 5. Regression results of Model LM2


5. Discussions and conclusion

5.1. Discussions

Our finding of the larger number of females taking vegan diet presented in Section 4.1 well agrees with those by Ipsos (2018), Allès et al. (2017), Hartmann and Siegrist (2017), Barr (2015), Schösler et al. (2015), Ruby (2012), Bedford and Barr (2005). It can be explained by the common stereotypes against vegan diets as mentioned in Section 2.2 and the fact that the males tend to believe that vegan diets seriously influence their manliness and they usually order meat during their eating with their partners for a round to strengthen their corporate and/or social associations. Moreover, it is also found that monthly income, age and education have no significant impacts on vegan diet.

On the other hand, as shown in Table 4, vegan diet is found strongly and positively influenced by the interaction between spirituality and diet knowledge. Hence, we suggest to have more talks and/or presentations about the benefits of vegan diets, how to prepare proper vegan diets for good health, the key ethical concerns about animal rights, environment protection, spirituality, soul, etc. during religious indoctrinations, public healthcare consultations by health experts or by health practitioners, or even practical experiences shared by actual vegans who work as typical examples to prove the benefits in terms of health and spirituality brought by vegan diets. These talks/ presentations help to enrich their knowledge about diets, nutrition, especially vegan nutrition to remedy the existing stereotypes. Thus, this is a good opportunity for those in vegan food industry to develop their business in HCMC in particular and in Vietnam in general.

5.2. Conclusion

This study aims at exploring business opportunity in vegan food industry by examining the impacts of vegan diet on the quality of life. By employing the popular measure WHOQOL-BREF proposed by World Health Organization in the case of Saigonese vegans, we conducted formal surveys about their diet practice, their personal characteristics and perceived quality of life. With the data collected from 704 valid observations, we conducted multiple linear regression models to investigate the statistical relationships among vegan diet, quality of life and some personal characteristics, including: gender, age, marriage, monthly income, education, spirituality and diet knowledge. Moreover, by examining factors affecting the overall quality of life, vegan diet, spirituality and the interaction between spirituality and diet knowledge are the three most important determinants positively improving the quality of life. Though age, monthly income and education have positive influence on the quality of life, they fail to affect the dietary choices of Saigonese vegans. From these findings, some managerial implications have been proposed to promote vegan diets and develop vegan food industry in particular and improve the human quality of life in general.

In spite of the above achievements, future researches on larger population across different communities with similar cultures are encouraged to further validate the actual impacts of vegan diets on quality of life.



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Phòng Quan hệ Quốc tế, Đại học Lạc Hồng


Ăn chay đang ngày càng trở nên phổ biến ở một số quốc gia và nó được công nhận phổ biến là một chế độ ăn uống dinh dưỡng và trị bệnh. Các nghiên cứu hiện tại chủ yếu tập trung vào các tác động của chế độ ăn chay đối với chất lượng cuộc sống của bệnh nhân hoặc các thành phần riêng biệt của chất lượng cuộc sống. Do đó, nghiên cứu này được thực hiện để điều tra mối quan hệ giữa chế độ ăn chay và chất lượng cuộc sống của người bình thường không xét đến vấn đề sức khỏe cá nhân của họ. Thông qua các khảo sát chính thức 704 người sống tại TP.Hồ Chí Minh, bằng cách sử dụng thang đo WHOQOL-BREF do Tổ chức Y tế Thế giới (WHO) đề xuất và phân tích hồi quy tuyến tính, nghiên cứu này cho thấy, chế độ ăn chay có tác động tích cực và mạnh mẽ đến chất lượng cuộc sống của những người được khảo sát. Ngoài ra, nghiên cứu cũng cho thấy chế độ ăn chay, tâm linh và sự tương tác giữa tâm linh và kiến ​​thức ăn uống là 3 yếu tố quan trọng nhất quyết định sự cải thiện tích cực trong chất lượng cuộc sống của những người được khảo sát. Từ những phát hiện này, nghiên cứu đã đề xuất một số ý nghĩa quản lý để thúc đẩy chế độ ăn chay, cơ hội kinh doanh trong ngành công nghiệp thực phẩm chay nói riêng, cũng như cải thiện chất lượng cuộc sống nói chung.

Từ khoá: Công nghiệp thực phẩm chay, cơ hội kinh doanh, thực phẩm chay, chất lượng cuộc sống.