Top 10 Vegan Locations, Redux

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Best Places to Live - If You're a Vegan, as compiled by Peta. Portland won the distinction of being the most vegetarian friendly large city in the USA. At the end of my post I indicated that I was surprised by some of the results. Jason of suggested per capita statistics could skew the data one way or the other. That made sense to me. So, now I wanted to know: which city has the greatest concentration of vegans per capita? But how to go about researching this? Enter: Google Trends!

Google Trends is a fairly new component of the Google family of software applications. It tracks the popularity of search terms and ranks them by city, state, country, language, etc. It also graphs the number of searches of the particular searched-for-term and attributes spikes in search activity to specific articles / posts.

And when providing data about a region, Google Trends doesn't just total up the quantity of searches by that region; it grades on a curve... To quote the Google Trends Help page:

"For counting and ranking cities, Google Trends first looks at a sample of all Google searches to determine the cities from which we received the most searches for your first term. Then, for those top cities, Google Trends calculates the ratio of searches for your term coming from each city divided by total Google searches coming from the same city."

So what did I find out? Google Trends won't tell us which city has the largest population of vegans. It tells us which city's or state's population searches for the term "vegan" most, per capita. Here's the list:

1. Portland, OR, USA
2. Pleasanton, CA, USA
3. Seattle, WA, USA
4. New York, NY, USA
5. Irvine, CA, USA
6. Austin, TX, USA
7. Los Angeles, CA, USA
8. Boston, MA, USA
9. San Diego, CA, USA
10. Philadelphia, PA, USA
1. Oregon, United States
2. Washington, United States
3. New York, United States
4. California, United States
5. Massachusetts, United States
6. Utah, United States
7. District of Columbia, United States
8. Maryland, United States
9. Arizona, United States
10. Colorado, United States

So according to Google Trends, over the past 12 months, Portland (as a city) and Oregon (as a state) are the locations in the USA with highest search ranking for the term "vegan." Not quite what I was looking for, but interesting nonetheless.

Extrapolating from that data, it does look like Portland, Oregon is the winner here in the U.S. If you're interested in checking other locations, click on the Google Trends link above and select the location you're inquiring about. Canberra, Australia and Brighton, UK are the winners in their countries. (I didn't look at all their locations, but Nepal and Monaco didn't have enough traffic to warrant a graph.)

I hope I didn't bore you all silly. This kind of stuff is a lot of fun for a "stat head" (read: nerd) like myself. Jane's sitting on the couch rolling her eyes, and I'm off to look at more data from Australia to Zimbabwe.


  1. Have you compared the ranking of the searches for “vegan” vs. the population of the state? CA is the biggest state in the US (I think), and thus would have more overall searches than many states, but they might be a lower percentage of the total. If North Dakota had only a few searches, it could, percentage-wise, be a much larger portion of the population searching for the term.

  2. Jason – Glad to be able to point out a new, fun tool! I’m a total “stat-head” and this is all just fun for me.
    Nicole, you raise a good point. — Google Trends calculates the ratio of searches for your term coming from each city divided by total Google searches coming from the same city. — by doing this, I think they are trying to normalize for population (relevant to them).
    Foodeater…Yes we are!

  3. you have to compare the relative numbers. The resluts you have here are as imformative, as affirming, that there are more potatoes than tomatoes.
    (The states you are comparing have not the same size)

  4. Sharon: Some of these results were surprising to me too.

    Franz: Yes, comparing percentages can be misinterpreted. From what I understand, Google Trends looks at the total number of searches from each location and compares that to the number of searches for a given topic (in this case, vegan).

    Let’s assume the population of North Dakota had only 100 people. If 96 of those people never searched for anything on google (meaning that only 4 of them did search on google) and 2 of those 4 people searched for vegan, then google would find that 50% of the searches in North Dakota were searching for vegan. North Dakota would almost certainly rank higher than anywhere else. This is probably why Pleasanton, CA ranked so high — not a lot of people searching, but of those who were searching, a disproportionate number were searching for vegan.

    Although this data is not completely indicative for every location, I suspect the search sample population, in most cases, is reasonably large. Thus, giving a fairly accurate assessment of which states have a greater concentration of vegans, or people interested in learning about veganism. I agree that it’s not necessarily showing us which states have the greatest number of vegans per capita. One thing’s for sure, these locations have a larger percent of people who search for the term vegan than other locations in the USA.

    Thanks for your comments.

  5. Thank you for this post. I’ve been trying to do this type of research. My fiance and I live an hour outside Philadelphia, but we’re looking to move to a warmer location in the near (hopefully) future. I don’t want to end up in the stix without vegan amenities! Our top interest has been the suburbs of Austin, TX, but I’m a little uneasy about it. The search goes on!

  6. Hi Monika,
    Glad it was of some use for you. I’m sure you’ve already thought of this, but you may also want to take a look at the Austin Chamber of Commerce for additional information. I don’t think I’d base my decision entirely on Google Trends… but it is certainly another data point to consider.

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