Mediterranean Diet vs. Keto: Recent Trends in the Diet Space

June 3, 20212 min
Lauren Daniels photo
Lauren Daniels Tastewise

Curious which diets are most top-of-mind for today’s consumers? Read on for a look at the top ingredients, dishes, and trends within the dietary landscape.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean Diet is a way of eating based on the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It focuses on fresh, whole foods and emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil.

This diet has been linked to numerous health benefits such as reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. It has also been associated with a longer lifespan and improved overall health.

In addition to its physical benefits, the Mediterranean Diet is also known for its delicious and satisfying meals. It includes a wide variety of flavors, textures, and colors making it not only nutritious but enjoyable to eat.

What is the Keto Diet?

The Keto Diet, short for Ketogenic Diet, is a popular low-carb, high-fat diet that has gained widespread attention in recent years. It involves drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake and replacing it with healthy fats. This causes the body to enter a metabolic state called ketosis, where it starts burning fat for energy instead of glucose.

While the Keto Diet was initially developed in the 1920s to treat epilepsy, it has since been adopted by many as a weight loss and overall health improvement strategy. It has also been studied for its potential benefits in managing various other conditions such as type 2 diabetes, neurological disorders, and polycystic ovary syndrome.

What diets are top-of-mind for consumers right now?

  • Interest in the Mediterranean diet is up +40% YoY
  • Interest in low calorie diets is up +17% YoY
  • Interest in Keto is down -19% YoY

Why is Keto falling behind in interest, but the Mediterranean diet is gaining speed?

According to our real-time data, consumers are:

  • 1.4x more likely to consider Mediterranean diet-friendly dishes tasty than Keto dishes
  • 2.5x more likely to focus on the fresh quality of Mediterranean diet ingredients over Keto ingredients
  • 1.8x more likely to make Mediterranean diet-friendly dishes at home than Keto dishes

Tastiness, freshness, and the ability to make a dish at home are all motivations that are important to today’s consumers: 12% of all food & beverage conversations specifically call out the tasty qualities of a dish or ingredient, while 3% focus on freshness. Today, ~4% of all eating and drinking occasions are home made, and interest in home made food and beverage has stabilized at a rate 26% higher than February 2020 (immediately before the first pandemic shutdowns in the US).

What Mediterranean diet dishes and ingredients do consumers consider tasty, fresh, and suitable to make at home? Mediterranean staples reign:

  • Falafel
  • Fish
  • Shawarma
  • Chickpeas
  • Juice
  • Pita

Let’s zoom in on shawarma, the Mediterranean diet-friendly dish considered the most tasty by consumers. Although the Mediterranean diet is typically fairly low in meat consumption – and high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, beans, grains, fish, and healthy fats such as olive oil – shawarma offers a delicious, geographically relevant meat dish that can be consumed in small quantities.

If we consider that 15% of Mediterranean diet dishes are home made – home made is the top motivation for Mediterranean diet consumption, second only to tastiness – it’s worthwhile to explore the top homemade shawarma variations and recipes. Chicken is the top meat type for homemade, Mediterranean diet-friendly shawarma; 48% of all Mediterranean diet dishes involve chicken.

The most popular chicken shawarma recipes in the last 30 days:

  • Chicken shawarma salad
  • Easy oven roasted chicken shawarma
  • Healthy chicken shawarma quinoa bowls

General health is the most popular functional health motivation for chicken shawarma, followed closely by weight conscious preparations; interest in healthy chicken shawarma dishes is up 27% YoY, while its weight-conscious cousin is up a significant 105% YoY. The most established method of chicken shawarma preparation is fried (accounting for 11% of occasions), but its growth is only +10% YoY; baked preparations, while established at less than half the penetration of fried, is growing 69% YoY making it the (health-aligned!) preparation to watch. Chicken shawarma lettuce cups with tahini is a prime example of health and weight-conscious preparations of the Mediterranean diet dish.

When developing a new dish or product, what are the top paired ingredients with chicken shawarma to note?

  • The highest penetrated ingredients in association with chicken shawarma are hummus, pita, and leafy greens, these ingredients are already mature in their trend lifecycles, and offer a ‘safe’ choice rather than an opportunity for innovation in today’s landscape.
  • Falafel, citrus, garlic sauce, and tahini are all trending emerging ingredients in association with chicken shawarma, and offer innovative directions for new product development with room to experiment.

The bottom line?

Chicken shawarma is up 36% YoY in general consumer interest, and a full 9% of chicken shawarma discussions already mention the Mediterranean diet. However, the amount of recipes explicitly claiming chicken shawarma and the Mediterranean diet is negligible. If you’re a content marketer and looking to tap into rising interest in the Mediterranean diet, consider creating a chicken shawarma recipe featuring your product – and explicitly calling out the association.

Interested in exploring more Mediterranean diet trends – or any trend of your choosing?

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