Fresh meat, plant-based meat alternatives on the rise: Study

Research finds different generations are purchasing protein for different reasons

Acosta1 Infographic

Though 81% of millennials, 74%
of Gen Xers, 66% of boomers and 50% of silents believe protein content is extremely or very influential when making grocery store purchases, various generations view protein differently, according to sales and marketing agency Acosta’s 2018 Progressing Protein Palates report.

While the older generations are more concerned with the health benefits of protein, younger consumers care about exercise recovery and feeling full, the research found.

READ: Plant protein producers aim for mainstream with new research, investments

“Our research shows that protein continues to be a mainstay in shopping baskets, but the kind of proteins shoppers are buying is evolving,” noted Colin Stewart, SVP, insights at Acosta. “Plant-based meat alternative sales are booming and popular with vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Another trend we’re seeing with protein is that shoppers are paying more attention to labels and product claims, but are overwhelmed and confused about what they mean.”

The report delves into meat- and protein-buying behaviours, including:


  • 18% of shoppers are purchasing more fresh meat versus last year, while 12% are buying less, primarily because of price and striving to eat healthier, either for themselves or their families.
  • 41% of millennials are buying more fresh meat versus a year ago, more than all other generations combined.
  • Beef and chicken account for 70% of all fresh meat sold.
  • Sales of natural/organic meat are surpassing conventional choices.


  • Shoppers are realizing that meat isn’t the only protein source, with plant-based meat alternatives increasing 11% in units year over year.
  • 71% of shoppers who buy plant-based meat alternatives also eat meat.
  • Meat-eaters are interested in alternative diets that are either less focused on meats or omit meat altogether, particularly millennials, 26% of whom are vegetarian/vegan.
  • Thirty-four per cent of meat-eating millennials consume four or more vegetarian dinners weekly.


  • Shoppers are confused by the sheer variety of product claims, especially those related to meat products including “humanely raised” and “free range.”
  • Millennials expressed the most label confusion, at 58%, while Gen X ranked as the the most knowledgeable generation of shoppers.
  • Of shoppers who feel confused/overwhelmed, 85% want to have more information available to enable them to decipher claims and labels.
  • For Gen X shoppers who believe they understand various product claims, they feel most strongly about no added hormones/antibiotics and all-natural products.

“Millennials are purchasing more fresh meat and plant-based meat alternatives than any other generation, and brands and retailers need to understand they are the key to growth in the protein arena,” said Stewart. “Another clear takeaway from this study is that more awareness needs to be built around various product claims and labeling – especially for all-natural and antibiotic-/hormone-free meat product.”

Progressing Protein Palates was carried out through an online survey of Acosta’s customer shopper community panel, in addition to multiple Nielsen research reports.

This article appeared at