Image courtesy of SDC portfolio company Hooray Foods
In the aftermath of findings from leading research agencies such as the EAT-Lancet Commission and the Chatham House that the world needs to shift to a plant-based diet to avoid climate destruction, young people are changing their diets faster than other generations.
The Millennial and Gen Z consumer groups over index in their consumption trends of plant-based alternatives, compared to other demographic groups – and have done for several years now.
A 2020 survey from YouGov found that Millennials are more likely than any other generation to say they have permanently changed their diet, with a leading reason being to reduce their impact on the planet. The results indicate that this group are more likely than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers to have tried vegetarianism, and that more Millennials have gone entirely plant-based than older generations. A further report from the NPD group indicates that the Gen Z and Millennial generations will be almost entirely responsible for the growth of dairy and meat alternatives through 2024.
These consumer groups, with the oldest members now coming up on their 40th birthdays, are entering a time of increased purchasing power and purchasing decision making. Consumption trends and interests of these individuals are beginning to show in market outcomes.
A driving factor behind consumer’s interest in purchasing plant-based is an awareness of the need for food system changes to avoid further damage to our climate. Younger generations have been learning about climate change since the early days of their education and it has made a difference.
“That puts us in a unique position in which we’re constantly exposed to both crises and information on how to immediately respond and adapt, creating an ‘act now’ mentality among my generation,” explains Cienna Romahn, the 22 year old events manager at SDC portfolio company Hooray Foods.
With studies showing that we could save three-quarters of the land used for agricultural production, at least half of all water used, and over two-thirds of agricultural emissions by shifting to plant-based diets, the potential benefits to the planet from behavior change are clear. A model published by science journal PLoS Climate found that phasing out animal agriculture over the next 15 years would have the same effect as a 68 percent reduction of carbon dioxide – the primary greenhouse gas driving climate change – emissions through the year 2100.
While younger consumers are aware and making changes to their diets and purchasing habits, these shifts aren’t occurring at the same rate among older generations. Yet, the reasons to embrace a plant-based diet are compelling and more urgent than ever before. As Romahn says, “even the smallest changes can make a large impact when we empower enough people to make them.”