Vegan options for your kids’ lunchbox just got an upgrade.
People in America (and abroad) are increasingly dedicated to eating more plants. Per a recent study by The Hartman Group, a market research firm in the food and beverage space, an estimated 48 percent of consumers look for products labeled as “plant-based.”
According to the first-ever plant-based trend report from Whole Foods, there’s also a desire for more plant-based food for kids. Not surprisingly, as adults are becoming more interested in vegan and flexitarian diets, companies are catering to their kids with snackable options that go beyond fresh-cut veggies and hummus.
Why Kids Are Eating More Vegan Food
Interest in vegan foods for kids is on the rise. In the United States, plant-based foods for little ones are becoming more popular thanks to their millennial parents. On the other hand, in the UK, research suggests that it’s mostly the kids themselves who are pushing for more vegan options.
Stateside, data from Linkage Research & Consulting, a Chicago-based market research firm, found that millennial parents are the driving force behind vegan, kid-friendly foods. Per research from Linkage based on more than 10,000 consumer interviews conducted in 2019, 17 percent of American adults say plant-based is a top criteria they factor into their food. That figure rises to 25 percent among millennials.
“That’s really important if you think about first-born children (those that are eight and under) who are likely to be parented by a millennial. So, as millennials increase their demand for plant-based foods, they’re bringing their children along with them,” said Michele DeKinder-Smith at the FOOD FOR KIDS summit in December 2019. She noted non-dairy milk, non-dairy yogurt, and plant-based snacks are the most popular categories in the vegan kid food space.
Linkage also found that 60 percent of households with kids are buying plant-based foods, and 80 percent of that group is feeding those vegan alternatives to their children. Additionally, about a quarter of these millennial parents are introducing their kids to plant-based alternatives before their second birthday.
DeKinder-Smith noted that by the time these children reach five to seven years of age, most of them are enjoying plant-based foods alongside their parents, and will continue to eat them as they age and grow.
When it comes to motivation, the Linkage research found that approximately one third of parents want to teach their children how to eat responsibly, which includes making sustainable food choices. Others simply want their children to follow the diet of the rest of the household, which is increasingly flexitarian.
Over in the UK, vegan food for children is also gaining popularity, but the motivations are slightly different. Instead of the parents pushing for plant-based options, kids are seemingly interested in them on their own, chiefly because they are kinder to animals and the environment.
A 2019 poll commissioned by Linda McCartney Foods questioned 1,000 children between the ages of 8-16 and found that 70 percent of them want to see more vegan and veggie meals on their school menu. Additionally, the poll found that 44 percent of school pupils have tried to cut meat from their diet, and 10 percent already live a meat-free lifestyle.
When asked about their motivations for wanting to ditch meat, 44 percent of the children cited being “kinder to animals,” while 31 percent cited the environment. An additional 29 percent said they wanted to be healthier, and 19 percent said they just prefer vegetarian options.
Vegan Foods for Kids Are on the Rise
While fruits and vegetables are some tried and true vegan snacks that kids (and others!) can enjoy, plant-based options for kids have grown tremendously and, according to the trend report, will continue to be a significant point of interest going forward.
Case in point: plant-based dairy brand Miyoko’s recently launched vegan cheese sticks made with oat milk and chickpeas, marketed to children. And that’s just the beginning. Other brands are releasing vegan versions of kid-approved foods like Nuggs’ upcoming dino-shaped chicken nuggets.
When it comes to yogurt for little ones, plant-based brand Kite Hill now sells strawberry-banana flavored vegan yogurt tubes. In fact, even brands that aren’t strictly in the vegan space have begun to create dairy-free snacks for kids. Stonyfield has several dairy-free smoothie pouches for babies and kids, as does actress Jennifer Garner’s Once Upon a Farm brand.
In LIVEKINDLY’s own trends report for this year, we predicted that vegan chicken, plant-based eggs, fermented proteins, vegan pork and fish, plant-based cultured meat, and revamped packaging for vegan products would all gain traction. Aside from a stronger desire for vegan foods for kids, the Whole Foods report also predicted increased interest in nut-based cheese alternatives, vegan barbecue products, plant-based fish, and dairy-free dips.