By Tom Collins
OTTAWA — Millennials are the largest purchasers of food in Canada, and they are also under increasing pressure to eat less meat, says the CEO of an Ottawa research firm.
David Coletto, of Abacus Data, said that an online survey of 2,000 Canadians conducted by his firm last November showed that 16 per cent of millennials who responded feel they have been shamed or judged for eating meat, compared to five per cent of the rest of the population. Millennials were partly eating less meat because of animal welfare concerns and to reduce their carbon footprint, he said.
Millennials, those born between 1996 and 1980 (ages 24 to 40) are starting families and that pressure to eat less meat will be passed on to their children, Coletto said.
“We’ve heard lots of anecdotal and survey results about parents being judged for the choices they make and worried about what others think about how they raise their kids,” said Coletto during an online webinar for Canadian Centre for Food Integrity this spring. “The choice (parents) make in the food that their kids eat is a big part of that.”
Millennials are often characterized as being more civically and politically disengaged while being more materialistic and more confident and receptive to new ideas and ways of living. Coletto said younger consumers are “more adventurous and more willing to try new things” in the plant-based food world.
The good news is that almost everyone loves meat. In fact, the survey indicated that eating meat makes one happy. Ninety per cent of respondents in Coletto’s survey say they love the taste of meat. Unfortunately, 32 per cent say they reduced the amount of meat they have eaten in past year.
Here were some of the reasons consumers reduced their meat intake:
• 60 per cent because of health reasons;
• 43 per cent because of animal welfare concerns;
• 37 per cent to lower their carbon footprint;
• 35 per cent because of the high price of meat;
• 35 per cent because of more choices available;
• 34 per cent to feel better;
• 18 per cent because the doctor suggested it, and;
• 15 per cent because they don’t like the taste.
Coletto estimates that as concerns about climate change grows, so too will carbon-neutral diets. He said producers who reduce their carbon footprints need to tell that story to the consumers, as well as showing consumers how meat fits into a healthy diet, he said. Coletto’s research has shown that younger adults, when compared to baby boomers, are more likely to be vegetarian, vegan, or believe that we need to change diets because of climate change and to reduce their carbon footprint.
“Constantly think about all those influences that affect the consumer choice,” he said. “Now the question is, what are you doing about animal treatment and how, as producers, are you lowering your carbon footprint, because increasingly, consumers are thinking about those things. Communicating a story and a message to consumers is harder, but I don’t think it’s ever been as important.”
Coletto doesn’t expect a massive shift to veganism or vegetarianism anytime soon, but he did say there is ample evidence consumers are going with a more hybrid approach and reducing the amount of meat that they eat. He said while there’s still plenty of doubt about the healthiness of plant-based foods, that market will grow as more research becomes available.
According to the survey, when comparing meat to plant-based food, respondents found meat was better for taste, cost, for their happiness and satisfying hunger. Plant-based meats rated higher for having a better environmental impact.
When it came to rating meat and plant-based foods on their health benefits, the two food groups were tied, the survey found.