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3 Charts Breaking Down Gen Z & Millennials’ Interest in Plant-Based Food

How many young people are actually eating and drinking plant-based foods and beverages right now? We’re breaking it down…


Back in 2019, YPulse said that Gen Z and Millennials were the ones fueling the fake-meat food rush, and the pandemic actually accelerated the trend. According to data from SPINS, sales of plant-based meat were up 18% in 2019, with the category worth more than $939 million, and at the end of May 2020, refrigerated plant-based meat saw sales increase 63%—it now accounts for 2% of retail packaged meat sales. Mashable reported that in the first quarter of 2020, Beyond Meat’s sales increased to $97 million, up from $40 million in 2019. Plant-based food brands and traditional food brands alike have been racing to keep up with demand and get in on the momentum. In 2020, Impossible Foods unveiled an DTC ecommerce site to make its burgers accessible directly to customers, Nestle called plant-based foods “vital” to their future, and fast food brands from Pizza Hut to long-time holdout McDonald’s added plant-based items to their menus. In early 2021, Beyond Meat struck deals with multiple food chains, agreeing to supply McDonald’s with “faux meat” and working with them to create potential chicken, pork, and even egg alternatives, while also partnering with Yum Brands Inc. to develop new plant-based menu items for their brands, like KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. Of course, plant-based beverages have become giant business in this time as well,

We’ve tracked the trend since its start, and it’s undeniable how much it’s grown, and become more mainstream. So, how many young people are really eating and drinking plant-based foods and beverages today? In our most recent Cooking and Diets behavioral report, we asked them, and today we’re breaking down what their interest, consumption, and who’s driving the trend.

When we look at all 13-39-year-olds, YPulse found that almost half of young people are already either eating plant-based foods, drinking plant-based beverages, or both:

Forty-seven percent of 13-39-year-olds say they drink plant-based beverages and/or eat plant-based meat regularly, while 23% don’t but are interested. Only 30% currently say that they don’t eat or drink plant-based items and they’re not interested in doing so. Clearly the market for plant-based foods is indeed ripe with possibility among young people. Our data indicates that overall young people are more likely to drink plant-based beverages than they are to eat plant-based meats. But accessibility could be a factor here: almond and oat milks have become a norm in coffee shops and in daily aisles. As plant-based meat products become more accessible in fast-food chains and grocery stores, it’s likely that the number who have try them will increase significantly, which could in turn push up the number who say they eat them regularly.

But what are both Gen Z and Millennials embracing plant-based foods equally? Not quite.

When we compare Gen Z and Millennials’ responses, it’s clear that Millennials are more interested in plant-based foods than Gen Z right now. Gen Z teens who aren’t eating or drink plant-based foods are much more likely than Millennials to say they’re not interested, and Millennials are more likely to say they’re already eating plant based meats and/or drinking plant-based beverages. That said, 30% of 13-19-year-0lds who don’t currently eat plant-based items are interested, so these numbers may shift as they age up.

In fact, it’s those young consumers who are just a little older who are actually most likely to be both eating and drinking plant-based foods:

While 18-24-year-olds and 25-39-year-olds are nearly equally likely to be interested in plant-based foods, 18-24-year-olds are the most likely to say they both eat plant-based meats and drink plant-based beverages. This was also reflected in the kinds of foods that this group reports eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with 18-24-year-olds the age group most likely to say they eat plant-based meat in a typical weekday meal.


YPulse Business users can access the full Cooking & Diet behavioral report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Business account? Find out more here.