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What drives Gen Z to embrace plant-based diets?

In a recent study published in the journal Foods, researchers investigated Gen Z’s perceptions toward plant-based foods and the factors influencing their willingness to adopt green-eating practices across university students in Greece, India, and the United Kingdom (UK).

Their results indicate that attitudes, meal preparation involvement, perceived barriers, and personal factors like knowledge of healthy eating and physical activity significantly influence Gen Z’s willingness to switch to plant-based diets, highlighting both the challenges and opportunities for promoting sustainable food choices.

Study: Gen Z’s Willingness to Adopt Plant-Based Diets: Empirical Evidence from Greece, India, and the UK. Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio / ShutterstockStudy: Gen Z’s Willingness to Adopt Plant-Based Diets: Empirical Evidence from Greece, India, and the UK. Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio / Shutterstock


Previous research has highlighted the health risks of meat consumption, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, and its environmental impact, including greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation.

Despite the established benefits of plant-based diets, many consumers remain hesitant to adopt them, with meat consumption deeply embedded in Western culture. Factors influencing the acceptance of plant-based diets include attachment to meat, food choice motives, and perceptions of health and environmental benefits.

Generation Z, a key demographic for future food trends, bases its food choices on diverse factors like health, environmental concerns, and social influences. Studies have shown that positive attitudes toward sustainable food sources correlate with higher dietary quality among youth.

However, gaps remain in understanding the specific barriers and motivations for Gen Z’s willingness to adopt plant-based diets.

About the study

This study explored the attitudes and perceptions of Gen Z university students in Greece, India, and the UK towards plant-based diets. The researchers collected data from students born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s using a 15-minute online questionnaire, yielding 528 valid responses.

The questionnaire covered sociodemographic details, meal preparation habits, culinary skills, knowledge of healthy eating, diet healthiness, and activity level. It also assessed the influence of social media and television advertising on plant-based food purchases and barriers to adopting a plant-based diet, such as interest and knowledge about plant proteins.

To analyze the data, the researchers used statistical methods like principal component analysis (PCA) and exploratory factor analysis (EFA) to identify key factors influencing students’ attitudes and group them based on these attitudes.

They employed an ordered probit model to examine the likelihood of students adopting plant-based diets, considering their backgrounds, meal preparation habits, lifestyle choices, and perceived barriers.


About 22% of the respondents were Indian, 58% were Greek, and 20% were English. The majority of the students (85%) were female, and less than 25% were over 23 years old.

Compared to Indian students, Greek and English students were more likely to be responsible for shopping for food and planning and preparing their meals and less likely to be living with their parents or relatives.

English students were more likely to feel that they made healthy dietary choices. Indian students showed the most interest in shifting to more plant-based diets, with nearly half saying that they were receptive towards doing so, compared with less than 20% of Greek or English students.

Some common perceptions of plant-based foods were that they taste inferior to more conventional products (33%) or are too expensive (40%). However, nearly 40% also noted that some plant-based foods taste good.

Many students also noted the health and environmental benefits of plant-based foods. Nearly half of the respondents felt animal proteins superior to plant-based protein sources.

The PCA found five factors explaining nearly 58% of the variance in students’ attitudes toward plant-based diets.

These factors were: health benefits of plant-based diets (13%), dissatisfaction with plant-based food attributes (13%), ensuring adequate protein intake in plant-based diets (12%), perceived exclusion of animal-based foods (10%), and attachment to meat proteins (9%).

The ordered probit model indicated that sociodemographic characteristics, meal preparation activities, and personal/lifestyle factors significantly influence the willingness to adopt a plant-based diet.

For Greek students, living alone or with friends increased the likelihood of adopting plant-based diets, while responsibility for cooking decreased. Indian students showed higher willingness if they were female or postgraduates.

Meal planning positively influenced English students’ willingness, while culinary skills negatively impacted both Indian and English students.

Knowledge about healthy eating was a positive factor for both Greek and English students, while high physical activity levels negatively influenced Indian students’ willingness to adopt plant-based diets.


Regarding the implications of this research for the food industry, researchers emphasize the need for clear communication on the health and environmental benefits of plant-based diets, as well as innovations in developing and labeling products to increase consumer acceptance.

The study concludes that while it provides valuable insights into Gen Z’s attitudes towards plant-based diets, it faces limitations due to sample selection bias and homogeneity in meal preparation involvement. Future research should employ random sampling to capture diverse sociodemographic groups, while longitudinal studies could elucidate changes in attitudes over time.

Journal reference:

  • Gen Z’s Willingness to Adopt Plant-Based Diets: Empirical Evidence from Greece, India, and the UK. Raptou, E., Tsiami, A., Negro, G., Ghuriani, V., Baweja, P., Smaoui, S., Varzakas, T. Foods (2024). DOI: 10.3390/foods13132076,

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