Gen V(egan)? Gen Z Shifts Away from Meat and Dairy

Emerald Nwanne

While millennials have a reputation for “killing” food-related industries, Generation Z might be ready to continue these food trends with their unique preferences. With over $360 billion in disposable income, Gen Z's spending power is on the rise. This new generation of consumers has already begun to reshape industries across the board, especially food.


According to our latest Evergi Wellness Report, Gen Z is showing a marked shift away from meat and dairy products in favor of healthier and plant-based options. We'll take a look at food industry trends to see which meat and dairy products Gen Z consumers are putting down and what they're replacing them with. 


Who is the Gen Z Consumers? Download our  - Infographic: Gen Z Data Behind the Diversity  - to find out



Gen Z is Eating Less Meat & Dairy

In-Blog Asset (16)-1Gen Z is consuming less meat and dairy than previous generations. Gen Z’s milk preference is a dairy industry trend to watch. While older generations are still buying conventional cows milk, younger consumers are purchasing plant-based alternatives such as oat milk, pea milk, and soy milk. In fact, our report found that only 8% of Gen Z reported purchasing conventional cow's milk, compared to 37% of baby boomer consumers. 


Although purchases of conventional cow's milk have declined across generations, the data shows that Gen Z is leading this trend. During the same time frame, purchases of plant-based alternatives have increased across generations.


Gen Z is also moving away from traditional meat products such as bacon, chicken, hot dogs, red meat, and seafood. However, unlike dairy products, they are not all necessarily replacing these products with plant-based alternatives. Digging into these meat consumption trends, we see they are transitioning to a plant-based diet without meat replacements. This suggests that they are actively seeking out healthier options that align with their values and goals.


Although Gen Z is not anymore vegan or vegetarian than other generations, almost 60% of these consumers report that plant-based foods are not only better for the environment but also healthier. Even over the last year, Evergi data reveals a decline in purchases of traditional animal-based products. With about a 9% decline in purchases of bacon (pork) and a 7% decline in purchases of chicken, it's clear that Gen Z's preferences are making an impact.


Why the Shift?

What might be causing this shift in meat and dairy consumption? Many younger consumers are seeking out plant-based options that are convenient and easy to prepare. 21% of Gen Z buyers report that it is difficult to eat healthy while over half of Gen Z found that convenient foods help them eat healthier.


While convenience certainly plays a role in the choices that Gen Z makes, diet preferences are also driving the shift away from meat and dairy. Gen Z buyers are also making more conscious choices about their diets, opting for plant-based options for health and ethical reasons.


Gen Z consumers are especially interested in the environmental impacts of their food choices. This is a generation that wants to be healthy and fit, but also conscious of the environment. They are less likely than older generations to eat strict diets such as vegan or vegetarian but they are more willing to to choose plant-based foods for environmental reasons.


Our research shows that almost two-thirds of these consumers believe that plant-based foods are not only better for the environment but also healthier. With 70% of Gen Z reporting that they are concerned about global warming, this generation is more likely to choose plant-based foods to help reduce their carbon footprint.


Plant-based Options for Gen Z?

Gen Z is opting for plant-based dairy alternatives such as oat milk, plant-based ice cream, pea milk, and soy milk. They do not appear to be adopting plant-based meat replacements with the same enthusiasm. 


While Gen Z purchases of dairy replacements have significantly increased over the last year, purchases on plant-based meat substitutes have lagged behind. Although they are open to trying plant-based meat, Gen Z is less likely to purchase these products. This group of consumers wants food items that are tasty, healthy, and affordable—but many plant-based meats fall short on at least one count.


A recent Evergi study also found that economic instability and global inflation are forcing consumers of all generations to be more conscious of where their dollar is going. Although Gen Z cares about their carbon footprint, they are more likely to be lower income and sacrifice green behaviors like buying eco-friendly or choosing plant-based alternatives.


Looking Forward

Looking ahead, it is clear that Gen Z's changing attitudes about health and wellness will continue to drive significant changes across industries.


As this generation continues to age and gain more buying power, we can expect to see continued growth in the plant-based market and a greater emphasis on transparency and sustainability in all consumer packaged goods. Brands that are able to adapt to these changing trends and meet the needs of this emerging market will be well-positioned for long-term success.


They say Generation Z is the most diverse generation - but what does the data say?

Get the infographic Gen Z: Data Behind the Diversity


Published: 2/28/2023