A person holding a stack of Amy's pizza packages

Millennial & Gen Z Buying Habits Spell Growing Opportunity for Plant-Based

Family health and social responsibility key drivers in purchasing decisions for younger demographics

Millennial and Gen Z consumers are changing their eating habits, placing a growing importance on healthy, sustainable options.

For some millennials, the main driver in this shift in spending behavior is the desire to accommodate a healthier lifestyle for both themselves and their growing families, which often manifests as increased interest in plant-based options. According to Technomic’s 2020 Generational Consumer Trend Report, 33% of millennial consumers (compared to just 23% of consumers overall) say they’ve adopted semi-vegetarian, flexitarian or vegan diets and are integrating plant-based foods and beverages into their meals more routinely now than they were two years ago.

“Millennials have entered into a new life stage where health becomes more of a priority,” says Robert Byrne, Director of Consumer & Industry Insights at Technomic. “Having kids will certainly push an individual to rethink their daily habits and routines, and COVID-19 handed millennials what may have been their first true ‘mid-life crisis’ event in the form of a health-threatening pandemic.”   

“They not only express above-average interest in healthy eating, but they are also more likely than all other cohorts to invest in name-brand products, with 66% of millennials saying that it is worth it to pay more for brand-name food & beverages compared to the overall consumer average of 57%,” says Byrne, citing Technomic Ignite Consumer data.

Similar shifts in behavior affect other demographic groups as well. For example, Gen Z places less importance on personal wellness, focusing instead on the wellness of the planet.  Many are interested in plant-based and alternative proteins, with sustainability playing a large role in these purchasing decisions. Gen Z consumers also sit ahead of the pack when it comes to routine consumption of vegetarian and vegan options, with 63% consuming vegetarian or vegan dishes at least once per month, and 44% doing so once or more a week, according to Technomic’s 2020 Center of the Plate: Seafood and Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report.

Gen Z is also more reliant on convenient food options than any other generation.  With many unable or unwilling to cook traditional meals at home, prepared meal options are crucial to their grocery shopping experience. According to Technomic’s December 2019 Gen Z Deep Dive, 28% of Gen Z consumers say they are buying prepared foods more than in the past, with 44% saying they would like to eat home-cooked food more often, but just don’t have time.

Though their reasons my differ slightly, millennial and Gen Z consumers are driving a market that saw retail sales of plant-based foods increase by 27% in 2020, bringing the total plant-based market value to $7 billion, according to the Plant Based Foods Association and The Good Food Institute. The plant-based food market grew at almost double the rate of the total U.S. retail food market, raising the total number of households who now purchase plant-based foods to 57%, up from 53% in 2019, the same report found.

Grocery retailers can translate these changing consumer habits into opportunities by offering plant-based choices from trusted brands like Amy’s Kitchen. Family-owned and sustainably-minded, Amy’s aligns with the values of the younger generations and also offers a variety of great-tasting, convenient organic, vegetarian & vegan meal options.

“For younger cohorts, evolving ideas of healthy lifestyles and healthy eating are merging with traditional ideas of global sustainability and responsible consumerism,” says Byrne. “Going forward, products that truly work alongside consumers in their quest to be better, healthier global citizens are likely to have an edge with both Gen Z and millennials.”