According to new research from Acosta, there is one thing every generation can agree on: the importance of protein. Older generations put protein high on the grocery list because of associated health benefits. Younger generations, most notably, Millennials, are finding even more reasons to prioritize protein.

But meat isn’t the only protein source on the menu. Acosta’s research shows notable increases in both meat and alternative protein purchases.

Fresh meat

U.S. shoppers are buying more fresh meat this year in comparison to last year. Millennials lead the pack, with 41% purchasing more meat this year, more than all other generations combined.

Beef and chicken make up 70% of all fresh meat sold. Natural, organic meat is outpacing the sale of conventional meat.

Alternative proteins

Plant-based meat alternatives sales are growing 11% year-over-year. Since 26% of American Millennials report being vegetarian or vegan, the soaring sales of meat alternatives should come as no surprise.

However, 71% of folks who pick up alternative proteins also eat meat. As a result, “Meatless Monday” is running into Tuesday and Wednesday — one in three meals of omnivore Millennials is meatless. Millennials cite several reasons for occasionally swapping meat for alternative proteins:

  • Overall health
  • Particular health concerns
  • Fewer chemicals/preservatives
  • Environmental impact
  • Treatment of animals

Lingering confusion

Despite the persistent interest in protein, some consumers are still confused about product claims found on today’s labels. As such, Acosta’s VP of Insights says, “…more awareness needs to be built around various product claims and labeling – especially for all-natural and antibiotic/hormone-free meat products.”

The takeaways

It’s well-documented that Millennials, who hold the most buying power of any generation, are shifting the tides of the food industry — and that manufacturers and retailers need to adapt. The results of this particular study fall right in line, explicitly stating that Millennials are key to growth in the protein sector. Acosta’s research also suggests that the food industry should work toward educating their consumers to eliminate confusion when it comes to labels.

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