Environmental and Political

Millennials and Plant-Based Eating – A Rising Trend

millennials in selfie

Vegan Eating is Popular Among Millennials

millennials selfieThe term “millennials” is typically used to categorize people born from 1980 through 2000 – making this a group of teens and “20-somethings”.  At 80 million strong, millennials are the largest demographic in North American history.  As a result of globalization, social media, the exportation of Western culture, and the speed of changes, millennials worldwide are more similar to each other than to the older generations within their respective countries.  Even in China, where family lineage is more important than the individual, a global millennial generation is being created.  And Chinese millennials are very similar to the millennials in Western countries.

Millennials are both an exciting an unique group.  They are growing up in a highly connected world, in ways not previously known.  The information revolution has empowered younger generations and has created strong global citizens with a very deep level of passion about many issues.  Many are seeking alternatives to established norms – including new ways of eating and consuming.

Veganism is a way of living that is on the rise.  From junk food vegans to whole-plant or raw food vegans, there is a version of veganism to suit everyone.  A strict vegan is someone that consumes no animal food or dairy products, and abstains from using animal products (such as leather) at all.  Veganism can also be a lifestyle that seeks to exclude, as far as it possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.

More Millennials are Choosing Veggie Diets

One of the global leader that reports of food trends and markets, Mintel, has included information on meat alternatives in their 2016 Report.  The cite a significant increase in sales of meat alternatives, particularly among consumers in the 18 to 24 age demographic.

More millennials are now self-identifying as vegetarian or vegan.  According to The New York Times, “an estimated 12% of millennials say they are “faithful vegetarians”, as compared to 4% of Gen-X’ers  and about 1% of baby boomers.”  This trend may be a significant driving force behind the increasing availability of veg-friendly options in many restaurants.

Demand for and Investment in Meat-Based Alternatives Are Increasing

As meat consumption decreases and more people seek alternatives, the economics of the food industry are affected.  Just in the past 10 years, meat consumption in the past 10 years in American has declined by about 10%.  This decline is further supported by a USDA statistics noting that 400 million fewer animals were slaughtered in 2014 vs. 2007.  In parallel, the annual retail market for plant-based protein alternatives has doubles to $1.6 billion USD.  Earlier this year, Marketwired reported on the expanding market for meat alternatives.  They claimed that this market is poised for significant growth – “potentially claiming up to a third of the protein market by the year 2054.”

Private investors are pouring millions into food startups.  One such example is Beyond Meat which has the attention of Microsoft mogul Bill Gates.  Another new company focusing on meat alternatives is Hampton Creek Foods in which Asia’s richest business, Li Ka-Shing, has made a $23 million dollar investment.

More companies are now realizing the increasing popularity of veggie goods and are offering humane vegan options.  Just this year, White Castle unveiled its first-ever veggie slider.  TCBY announced a delicious vegan frozen yogurt alternative.  Ikea began offering a vegan version of its classic Swedish meatballs.  And Ben & Jerry’s has begun a roll-out of a line of dairy-free ice cream.

vegan outreach booth

Increasing Environmental Awareness Among Younger People

Animal agriculture is an extremely inefficient and resource-intensive way to produce food for our growing human population.  Meat production has been associated with more harmful emissions into our atmosphere.  In addition, it consume much more of our precious pure water and other natural resources.

With the release of eye-opening fils such as “Cowspiracy” and outspoken environmentalists such as Al Gore and James Cameron, more people are becoming aware of the serious environmental consequences of factory farming.  A survey of vegans at a recent festival in Portand, Oregon (the US city with the highest percentage of vegans), revealed that many chose veganism for environmental reasons – not just for better health.

Younger Vegans are Speaking Out about Their Food Choices

In a blog post titled, “How moving to Berlin help me go vegan,”, food write Ines David talks about attending Berlin’s annual Veganes Sommerfest where vegan food vendors and animal rights activists come together to celebrate a lifestyle free of animal products.

“After watching a documentary promoted at the festival, I felt as if I had no other option”, she writes.  “If I wanted to be true to my values, I had to be vegan.  For me, it’s an ethical choice first and foremost.”  She explains that going vegan in Berlin was easy because of how accessible vegan restaurants are as well as vegan food in grocery stores.  “Berlin is considered the vegan capital of Europe.”

Germany is just one of several European countries experiencing a growth in veganism in recent years.  According to the UK Guardian, there were 150,000 vegans in the UK in 2006.  Now there are over half a million – a 350% increase.  Seventeen year old Euan Reece of Northamptonshire in the UK told the Guardian he believes that the open-mindedness of young people and the desire to break from social norms have been factors in the expansion of vegan diets.

Veganism is definitely more common among young people”.  I feel that social media has played a major part in this, but there’s also the fact that younger people aren’t bound as much by traditional values, so they are more likely to change to a more left field thing such as veganism.

Abigail Wheeler, also age 17, told the UK Guardian her reasons for adopting a vegan diet.  “I went vegan for three reasons: animals, health, and the environment.  People worry about the lack of B vitamins when going vegan, especially B12, so I eat food supplemented with it, such a nutritional yeast.  Being vegan is quite healthy….

vegan street food

Vegan street food

Isabella Hood of New Zealand, age 15, also cited the environment as one of her main reasons for becoming vegan.  “There is so much I could say about why veganism is the only sustainable choice for people.  I cold spout so many shocking statistics and facts.  For example, animal agriculture is the leading cause of CO2 emissions, deforestation, and pollution of our waterways.  It has been predicted that if the whole world went vegan, then world hunger cold be solved five times over.”

Unlike baby boomers who often adopt vegan diets for health reasons, millennials are choosing to be vegans largely for social, political, and/or environmental reasons.  This will be an interesting trend to watch.

If you are a vegan, what was it that led you to that choice?  Please share in the comment box below.

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Thriving on Plants is a resource for a whole food, plant-based way of eating and living. Here we celebrate all things plant and honor the power of informed awareness and a diet focused primarily of unprocessed vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains to support good health and happiness. Discover what a little more plant can do for your life!


This website is for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing presented here should be construed as a substitute for medical advice. Before beginning any type of new diet (natural or conventional), it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed physician, nutritionist and/or healthcare professional.
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