A study found that doubling the vegetarian options in a café can reduce the proportion of meat-rich purchases by between 40-80 percent without affecting overall food sales. The study, conducted by scientists from the University of Cambridge, finds concrete proof that tweaking food availability can influence, or ‘nudge’ people towards alternative food decisions.

Over a year’s worth of data was collected from three different cafes, two of which offered data with different menus, while the third was the ‘choice architecture’ experiment. The most significant increase in plant-based dining was found amongst the customers who had consistently chosen meat or fish before the addition of a second vegetarian option.

Scientists concluded that adding a range of options offers a powerful way to influence the health and sustainability of our diets.

Co-author of the study, Andrew Balmford, Professor of Conservation Science at Cambridge, said, “One of the exciting things about this study is the scale of information on individual diners’ choices. It allowed us to test for rebound effects when customers compensate for less meat at lunch by eating more in the evening. We found little evidence of this.”

Consumer trends show that flexitarianism is on the rise, and results from this study confirm that the addition of choice can further influence this.

The findings of this study are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.