Vegan? Gluten-Free? Opportunitarian? 44 percent of adults say they have specific dietary plans according to the Nutrition Business Journal. food restrictions, food allergies, or avoidance of certain ingredients dictate what they eat, according to a 2014 Packaged Facts report. Of those, one in three is trying to get off sugar, one in four is on a “high protein” diet, and 6.5 percent are “lactose free.” Many are motivated not just by a wish to lose weight but, rather, a “new lifestyle” inextricably linked with their social circles and stances on environmental and animal welfare issues. Nearly 1 in 3 adults is trying to go gluten free; one in 10 millennials is vegetarian or vegan; and as many as 3 million people identify with the “ancestral health movement,” a.k.a. Paleo, recent surveys show.
The notion of people aligning themselves around diet is nothing new. “Humans have a seemingly innate desire to belong, and food preferences have always been a way to do that,” notes Marion Nestle, a food politics blogger and professor of nutrition at NYU. What’s different today, she and other observers say, is the sheer number of people belonging to a so-called food tribe—and the profound influence they’re having on industry. “They are having a broad impact on the way people eat, and manufacturers, retailers and food service operators are being forced to respond,” says Amanda Topper, a food analyst for market research firm Mintel.
What’s the rationale behind America’s top food tribes? Find out here.