There is a general sense that Gen Z’s attitudes towards veganism are positive and supportive, with members of this generation often credited for driving the advancement of the plant-based segment. Increasingly concerned with their own well-being, it is thought that Gen Z sees veganism not only as a way to promote animal welfare, but also as a means to combat climate change, reduce their carbon footprint, and promote sustainability.

Social media is also thought to play a significant role in shaping Gen Z’s attitudes towards veganism, with many influencers and celebrities promoting plant-based diets. Major brands are responding to this trend.

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Dairy giant Danone recently launched a campaign for its vegan milk brand Silk that reimagines the “Got MIlk?” mustache campaigns of yesterday, complete with the Gen Z children of past ads donning vegan milk mustaches. 

But what exactly does Gen Z think about veganism? A new survey—conducted by social sciences data organization Medical Inspiration Daily For Stronger Society (MIDSS)—set out to find out.

Gen Z dishes on vegan diet

MIDSS surveyed 3,112 individuals born between 1997 and 2012 divided into two groups: 2,101 vegan Gen Zers and 1,011 non-vegan Gen Zers. Made up of various open-ended questions, the survey aimed to understand the attitudes of Gen Zers in both groups toward veganism and then compared the two to ascertain differences in opinions. 

The study found that half of vegan Gen Zers (50 percent) cited health as the main reason for adopting the diet. Interestingly, more than half (51 percent) of this group also stated that understanding the health benefits was the biggest obstacle in starting the diet. 

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A major barrier for non-vegans? Thirty-seven percent indicated that their cravings for non-vegan food—mostly meat—are stopping them from going vegan. A possible explanation for this, given the variety of plant-based meat products on the market, is that Gen Z’s parents (which typically come from Gen X) have a limited understanding and/or access to plant-based meat alternatives.

“Gone are the days that one needs to only eat tofu and rice every day as a staple of veganism,” Yelena Wheeler, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), said in a statement in response to the survey results. “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,” Wheeler said.

In addition to health concerns, animal welfare and environmental factors were also cited as reasons for choosing a plant-based diet. However, while 40 percent of vegans believe that the diet has a positive impact on the environment, 48 percent of non-vegans doubt that it does.

What do Gen Zers have in common?

Among the vegan Gen Z group, nearly half have been vegan for two years or less, while more than 20 percent have been vegan more than three years. Seven out of 10 respondents in this group indicated that they plan to remain vegan for at least the next five years, with 60 percent saying they will be educating those around them about the benefits of veganism to help them transition. 

Generally, the majority (57.4 percent) of vegan Gen Zers think that veganism is a positive lifestyle that is filled with increasing choice when it comes to food options and they agree is “doing the right thing by preserving animals.” 

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A near identical ratio (79 percent), however, of non-vegans indicated they would not be going vegan in the next five years. 

What prevents Gen Z from going vegan? 51 percent said they can’t give up meat while 21 percent indicated they were worried about nutritional deficiencies. Wheeler explained that while a well-planned vegan diet is necessary and might not be for everyone, and should revolve around a variety of whole foods to deliver maximum nutrition. 

“Many new vegans eat the same foods every day, probably due to thinking that there’s a lack of options on a vegan diet,” she said. 

“A renewed scientific interest in the health benefits of a well-balanced gut microbiome has triggered an increased public interest in plant-based foods that are full of fiber and prebiotics,” Wheeler said. 

Overall, only 8 percent of non-vegan Gen Zers simply refused to go vegan, with 9 percent saying that vegan food was boring and only six percent stating vegan food was expensive. 

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Do social media influencers play a role in inspiring Gen Z to go vegan? According to this survey, only three percent of respondents admitted that influencers had anything to do with their decision. 

A unifying factor was that all respondents surveyed indicated a confusion around the term “flexitarian,” with 73 percent of non-vegans and 52 percent of vegans indicating they did not know the terms definition. 

“I believe that plant-based diets—at least more incorporation of plant-based meals within our daily diet—will continue to increase,” Wheeler said. “Between the sustainability, environment, and costs of the current way, the trend to change is looming.”

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