Gen Alpha and the Rise of Vegetarianism

Gen Alpha are adopting meat-free diets more than any other generation. But what is it that’s influencing their dietary habits?

Whether kids tell us about their favourite school dinners or their parent’s homemade spaghetti bolognese, food is always a popular point of discussion during our Youth Trend Spotting calls. And that includes talk about meat-free meals. Kids are more eco-conscious than ever before, and it factors into the food they eat.

“Our whole menu at school is veggie now, so my favourite is the veggie pizza.”
Boy, 11

In the UK, according to finder.com*, currently, around 14% of adults (7.2 million) are following a meat-free diet. A further 12% (6.5 million) of the population intended to become vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian in 2021. So, meat-free diets are on the rise among adults. Yet, it is the younger generation who are leading the way. 

We asked over 6,500 kids whether they’re meat-free and 34% of 10-13s said they’re vegetarian or vegan. Gen Alpha are adopting meat-free diets more than any other generation. But what is it that’s influencing their dietary habits?

The Planet and Animals

Out of those we surveyed, the primary reason kids are meat-free is because of their concerns around the planet and animals, particularly among the 10-13s (60%).

“Dinosaurs would become back alive, but only if they were vegetarian so T-Rexes wouldn’t chomp everybody up.”
Boy, 7

From an early age, kids have a simple understanding of sustainability and climate change. When we interviewed over 10,000 6-16-year-olds worldwide as part of our FriendsKnowBest research, we found that kids are well-aware climate change is an issue we must tackle today. They are engaged and passionate about the environment. We’ve dubbed these kids #GenerationWhyNot.

That being so, kids are increasingly involved in meaningful actions and recognize their responsibility in protecting the planet. If kids were prime minister, 31% told us they would protect animals, followed by 26% who said they would help the rainforest. They understand that protecting endangered wildlife is crucial to saving the planet, and they can make a difference by cutting meat from their diet.

Parental Influence

Kids of millennial parents, who have the most democratic approach to parenting, are more open to their influence and advice. Approximately 25% of all kids saying that their parents have influenced them to be vegetarian or vegan.

“We recycle, we make our own compost with eggshells. We mainly eat a lot of veg, we don’t eat that much meat.”
Boy, 13

Dietary behaviour shifts are often caused by the availability of good options. Indeed, there have never been so many options available, with alternative proteins becoming a rapidly diversifying market in the food sector. For example, fast-food chains such as Burger King have launched vegan options to make meat-free options more accessible. Thanks to the range of options available, vegetarian parents can meet their kids’ nutritional needs easier than they could just a few years ago. 

Impossible Foods, whose mission is to make the global food system sustainable, is also making its way onto the school menu. These plant-based school meals will have an impact not only on kids but also on parents. They would see Impossible’s name on cafeteria menus, and if kids enjoy their school lunches, parents will likely try the plant-based product at home. Read more about their mission here. 

Intending to educate young people about the link between eating meat and climate change, the company also launched a teen-focused website, “The Birds and The Trees“. The online guide advises teens on how to talk to their parents about traditional meat’s impact on global warming.

What They Watch

Gen Alpha are digital natives. With easy access to discussions around worldwide issues, they are well aware of the environmental impact of human activity. 

46% of kids we surveyed watch Netflix more than any other streaming service, home to hundreds of documentaries. Seaspiracy, a stunning documentary about the harm of commercial fishing practices, is the latest to spark conversation and controversy. 

“Yeah, we are vegetarians because we watched this thing on Netflix called Seaspiracy. If they catch something that they don’t want then they kill it and throw it back in the ocean.”
Boy, 11

Furthermore, TikTok is becoming an unexpected leader in this space. There is a growing community of eco-friendly creators such as TikToker Taylor Bright, @sustainablecherub, and environmental collective Eco Tok, @eco_tok, who aim to raise awareness on urgent environmental issues. 

As a platform where millions of young people perform and explore their identities in public, it has become a prominent venue for ideological formation and political activism among kids.

What’s next?

Out of the 60% of kids who ate meat, 69% said they weren’t likely to become vegetarian or vegan in the future. 

Nevertheless, while restaurants, fast food chains, and supermarkets make meat-free options more accessible, and social media influencers promote vegetarian diets, we predict to see a rise in vegetarianism and veganism among the sustainability-conscious Gen Alpha.

*Source: https://www.finder.com/uk/uk-diet-trends 

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