Generation Z’s One (Drastic) Dietary Preference is Radically Changing the Food System

Generation Z's One Dietary Preference is Drastically Changing the Food System
iStock/AleksandarNakic

Make some room at the table, Millennials. Generation Z is hungry – for a radically different food system, that is.

This young demographic (born between the mid-nineties and mid-aughts) makes up 25 percent of the U.S. population – and is paced to make up a whopping 40 percent of the consumer market by 2020. In other words, Gen Z is about to be everywhere, and this generation has set its sights on the booming alternative meat and seafood categories in a big, big way, according to Business Insider.

While Millennials drove the shift toward cleaner ingredients, less-processed foods, more farmers markets, farm-to-table dining, and even our addiction to almond milk, Gen Z wants more from its food supply. It wants cruelty-free options — not just those that are “more humane” versions of the same old meat, eggs, dairy, and seafood — they want foods that perform and taste as good as, if not better than, traditional animal-derived products.

And this is a major shift, one Organic Authority recently detailed about how vegans are taking over all aspects of the meat industry, from the alternatives to the policies that affect how suppliers raise and treat their animals. In Generation Z there’s not only a market responding to the meat alternatives without prejudice, but one that will grow with the trend, and even raise their families with meat alternatives as the norm.

“Generation Z consumes 57% more tofu and 550% more non-dairy milk than millennials,” Business Insider notes. “Many are part of a growing movement of ‘flexitarians’ who eat meat and animal products sparingly.”

All data on diet trends point to this: Business Insider notes a 2015 Y-Pulse survey found plant-based and sustainable seafood options topped requests from college and university students. Data compiled by Google found interest in vegan food at an all-time high, and it’s likely to keep trending.

And while nondairy milks now outpace the growth of traditional dairy sales, the meat and seafood alternative market has barely scratched the surface (of the tofu). Allied Market research puts the meat alternative market at $5.2 billion by 2020, with an 8.4 percent annual growth.

“Companies that produce fake meat and seafood, ranging from ‘bloody’ burgers to sushi made from tomatoes, have targeted college campuses as testing grounds for their creations,” Business Insider notes.

“It’s a big market.”

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.