How Gen Z became the main driver of the vegan market
50% of vegans pursue this diet because of its health benefits.
More than 7 out of 10 vegans expect to continue their diet for the next 5 years.
More than 51% of vegans said that the most significant barrier to starting the diet was understanding the health benefits.
48% of non-vegans doubt the positive environmental impact of veganism, while 40% believe it.
73% of non-vegans and 52% of vegans don’t know what “flexitarian” means.
The biggest challenge for vegans is that 37% crave non-vegan foods.
60% of vegans say they educate those around them about the benefits of veganism with the hope that people will try the vegan diet.
More than half of non-vegans said meat cravings are their most significant barrier toward veganism.
Nearly 80% of non-vegans said they will not go vegan within the next five years.
General vegan statistics in the US and the world
In 2022, the market value of plant based-meat worldwide was estimated at more than $10 billion. This figure is estimated to reach almost $40 billion by 2027.
United States meat substitute consumption per capita 2014-2027
In 2022, Americans consumed an average of 0.7 pounds, or 300 grams, of plant-based meat substitutes, including those made with eggs or dairy. In the next five years, this consumption is forecast to triple.
United States meat substitute consumption per capita 2014-2027
Vegan Gen Z
Vegan Gen Z go vegan for better health
Generation Z – or Gen Z – have become the new drivers of the vegan food market. Gen Z refers to those born between 1997 and 2012, who are currently in their pre-teens to mid-to-late 20s.
According to our data, more than half of Gen Z chose to go vegan because of the health benefits. Studies show that a vegan diet can promote better heart health and healthy weight management, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Interestingly, only 17% of Gen Z vegans follow the diet for environmental benefits, despite the amount of evidence suggesting the positive impact of a vegan diet on reducing deforestation and slowing the rate of climate change. That’s not to say they don’t believe in the benefits on the environment though — 40% of Gen Z vegans who took the survey believe that veganism has a positive impact on the environment.
Another surprising result is that only 17% of Gen Z vegans said they went vegan because they don’t want to eat animal products, suggesting that the majority of Gen Z vegans aren’t vegan for ethical reasons.
10% of Gen Z vegans stated ‘family factors’ as a reason for being vegan. Although it’s unclear what this means in practice, it could be that they’re vegan because their parents or other family members are. Most Gen Zs are children of Generation X, who were born between 1965-1980, and likely have less of an understanding of what a well-balanced vegan diet entails.
Finally, very few Gen Z vegans admit to being inspired by influencers, with just over 3%.
However, there are still challenges to being a vegan
The two main challenges cited by a third of Gen Z vegans are that they crave animal products and feel they miss out on good food or meals. This is a surprising result due to the amount of plant-based meat alternatives on the market today.
Despite this, these products tend to be pricey, which can weigh heavily on their monthly expenses. Additionally, Gen Z could face challenges when it comes to acquiring or cooking appetizing alternatives to animal-based meals.
The next two challenges cited in equal measure by 10% of vegan respondents were a lack of nutrition and “social factors.” Indeed, getting the right balance of nutrients on a 100% vegan diet can be challenging — especially for growing adolescents. A vegan diet tends to be lower in several essential nutrients, including vitamin D, calcium, iodine, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and iron. If Gen Z or their parents are not aware of the potential nutrient deficiencies and neglect supplementation, Gen Z vegans risk following a diet that is lacking in essential nutrients necessary for optimal health and sustainability.
Social factors likely include difficulties in eating out with friends or family in a social setting due to fewer vegan options, or others not preparing vegan-friendly foods. However, this is much less of a problem than it used to be 10+ years ago, which is likely why only a small fraction of Gen Z vegans cite this as a challenge.
Finally, only 8% of Gen Z vegans who said they found it challenging to stay vegan said that the cost was an issue. The cost of plant-based substitutes has significantly decreased in the last few years. Nevertheless, a considerable proportion of Gen Zers, particularly those who are still in school or starting their careers, may find it costly to afford delicious and nutritious vegan dishes.
Vegan Gen Z attitude toward the Veganism trend
Despite being vegan themselves, not all Gen Zs are happy about the vegan trend.
One in ten Gen Z vegans thinks that treating a vegan diet as a trend is “weird” and that “some people are faking it,” presumably to fit in and be cool “rather than for the actual benefits that come with being vegan.” Many also dislike vegan influencers, thinking that they “give it a bad name” and “make us look bad.”
Having said that, the majority of Gen Z vegans have a positive attitude toward the vegan trend, with less than one-third remaining neutral. Those who have a neutral attitude would prefer veganism to be a “lifestyle” rather than a trend and think that “the culture can be annoying at times,” but understand that “being vegan doesn’t suit everybody.”
On the plus side, two-thirds of Gen Z vegans applaud the vegan trend, saying “we are doing the right thing by preserving animals” and that more vegan food choices make it cheaper and easier for people to eat less meat, even if they don’t go fully vegan.
Non - Vegan Gen Z
So, what about the non-vegan Gen Zs?
Craving meat is the biggest barrier to going vegan
When asked why they wouldn’t go vegan, 51% of Gen Zs said they simply “can’t give up meat,” while just over 21% said they were worried about nutritional deficiencies.
Yelena Wheeler, a vegan Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), agrees that deficiencies are a legitimate concern. However, it can be overcome by taking the right supplements or eating fortified foods.
For example, she says: “Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal proteins such as meat, poultry, and dairy. However, since a vegan diet is devoid of those foods, it is important to obtain B12 from fortified foods or supplements.”
A significantly smaller proportion of non-vegan Gen Zs said that vegan food tastes boring (9%), they simply don’t want to be vegan (8%), a vegan diet costs too much (6%), or other cited other reasons, such as a lack of discipline or not having enough information.
In conclusion, we can encourage a larger number of Gen Z individuals, particularly those who are apprehensive about the inadequate nutritional value of a vegan diet, to transition towards this lifestyle by offering a wide range of meat alternatives and providing improved education on how to incorporate nourishing vegan meals into their diet.
Food choices and nutritional values are the two main differences between veganism and other diets
According to 70% of non-vegans, the most “obvious” difference between vegan diets and omnivorous diets is the available food options (i.e., meat and dairy products vs. vegetables and nuts). This goes without saying, but, interestingly, only 16% of non-vegans thought there would be a difference in nutritional values between the diets. This seems odd considering that 21% of them said they wouldn’t switch because of a risk of nutritional deficiencies.
Apart from that, a minority of non-vegans said that they did not know what the differences are (8%), that there were significant differences in flavor (3%), and other reasons, such as morals.
Half of the non-vegans deny the positive impacts of veganism on the environment
When asked ‘Do you think veganism will help protect the environment?’ more non-vegans answered “no” (48%) than “yes” (40%). This is probably the most shocking result of our survey, considering it’s counter to the most recent data we have on the impact of eating meat on the environment.
12% of respondents answered “other,” with the most common different perspectives being that veganism helps and harms the environment simultaneously.
Yelena Wheeler, RDN, said: “Current practices of raising animals and slaughtering animals utilize and waste an exponential amount of resources such as energy and water. Additionally, it pollutes the environment with excess excrements and carbon monoxide.”
Non-vegans find animal welfare the most influential factor of veganism
When asked which factor most influences their opinion of veganism, almost a third of non-vegans said that protecting animals was most important, and another third cited health benefits. Besides that, 18% thought that protecting the environment was the most influential message.
A minority said that the media and influencers (7%) and the people around them going vegan (5%) are their main influencing factors. 10% said they were not influenced at all by veganism.
Non-vegans share different perspectives on whether veganism is a good trend or a fad
Compared to our vegan respondents, fewer non-vegans have a positive outlook on the vegan trend.
Only 35% of non-vegans thought that veganism is “a good movement and should be more popular.” Conversely, 38% had a negative view of veganism, with the majority stating that veganism is “pointless and unnecessary,” and a few claiming that veganism is just “a fad” and that people follow it “without being well-informed.”
A quarter of non-vegan Gen Zs felt neutral about the topic, saying that “people are free to choose the diets that suit them.” 2% of respondents said they believed veganism is “good” and that non-vegans are “cruel to animals and the environment” but that veganism still shouldn’t be forced on people.
Most non-vegan Gen Zs do not plan to go vegan
Most non-vegan Gen Zs do not plan to go vegan anytime soon
When asked whether they want to become vegan within the next five years, a solid 79% of respondents answered “no,” with 13% answering “yes,” and 8% undecided.
This could be seen as disappointing, especially in light of the benefits of a vegan diet to human health and the environment.
“Much of the commercial animal proteins available in the U.S. contain high levels of hormones and antibiotics,” says Yelena Wheeler, RDN. “This can have a profound impact on the immune system and increase the prevalence of autoimmune diseases.”
Also, there’s really no excuse for not eating more plant-based nowadays. “Gone are the days that one needs to only eat tofu and rice every day as a staple of veganism,” says Yelena Wheeler. “There are countless new products on the market that are completely plant-based and mimic their animal counterparts well. These new alternatives are rich in flavor and nutrients, which should make them widely acceptable to this generation.”
Nevertheless, going fully vegan is challenging, and simply isn’t possible for many people.
“I do believe that incorporating more plant-based meal options into one’s diet can be beneficial for everyone,” says Yelena Wheeler. “However, it is also important to understand that the vegan diet can be challenging and one needs to be dedicated to make it healthy and successful.”
Hypocrisy or a stepping stone to Veganism?
The perspectives of vegans vs. non-vegans on “flexitarianism”
A flexitarian diet is a predominantly plant-based diet that occasionally includes animal-based foods, such as meat, fish, or dairy.
The majority of vegan (53%) and non-vegan (73%) Gen Zs did not know the term “flexitarian.” Nevertheless, of those who did understand the term, most were positive about it. 27% of non-vegans — that is, all the non-vegans who understood the term — said that they “think it is a good idea,” while 34% of the vegans said they consider it “a great step to becoming vegan.”
However, 13% of vegans thought that flexitarianism defeats the purpose of veganism, with a small proportion believing that flexitarianism is a “glorified” term for those who cannot commit to the vegan cause.
Our registered dietitian disagrees. She says: “I think being flexitarian is a perfect way to start the vegan journey. It allows one to explore different vegan options, while still obtaining animal-based nutrients such as vitamin B12 and iron in the interim.”
Indeed, studies suggest that shifting to a flexitarian diet significantly reduces meat intake and could have a significant positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a dietary pattern such as flexitarianism, which allows moderate consumption of meat with an emphasis on locally-grown fruits and vegetables, has the benefit of not negatively affecting the planetary carbon footprint while being richer in nutrients than a strict vegan diet.
Is eating vegan two days a week the best way to start?
Vegan or flexitarian, it’s likely inevitable that we will end up eating less meat and more plant-based foods.
“I believe that plant-based diets — at least more incorporation of plant-based meals within our daily diet — will continue to increase,” says Wheeler. “Between the sustainability, environment, and costs of the current way, the trend to change is looming.”
When we asked those who were considering a vegan diet how they would want to start their vegan journey, 41% of respondents said they would be comfortable with eating vegan two days per week. One quarter said they’d be more likely to eat vegan one day per week, while one-fifth said they would start off eating vegan three to four days per week. The remaining 15% said they were not sure how they would start.