Why Consumers Are Purchasing Plant-Based Products More Than Ever Before, Advice from Nick Cooney

Nick Cooney
4 min readJul 22, 2019

It’s time to face the facts — plant-based meat isn’t going anywhere. Veganism and vegetarianism have proven themselves to be far more than passing fads (in fact, people who identified as vegan increased by 350% in the UK in the last decade and by 600% in the US in just three years). Industry expert Nick Cooney, who is the Founder and Managing Partner at Lever VC, the Co-Founder and former Managing Trustee of New Crop Capital venture capital trust, and the Co-Founder of the Good Food Institute, has offered to help explain this phenomenon. He has dedicated his career to investing in the alternative protein sector and can definitively say that we are living in a time when going meat-free has never been easier (or more delicious). But what specific reasons are making consumers inclined to purchase plant-based products now more than ever before? Nick Cooney claims that all it comes down to three main factors: taste, trendiness, and age.

The Taste Factor

A new study from Mintel suggests that taste is the most significant reason why American adults choose to eat plant-based products, ranking ahead of animal rights, environmental concerns, and health factors. According to Nick Cooney plant-based products have never tasted better. Remarkable innovations in the industry have led to products with better flavors and textures. Take Beyond Meat, one of over 25 alternative protein companies that Nick Cooney has invested in. Just last month, Beyond Meat launched its newest Beyond Burger, which claims to be “even meatier” than their previous products owing to the use of peas, mung beans, and rice proteins, mixed with coconut oil and beets, all of which create a juicy texture, simulate the red hue of beef, and adds more flavor.

The Trend Factor

The second reason why consumers are now more likely to purchase plant-based products? They’re trendy, and according to Nick Cooney, the power of the plant-based trend is unparalleled today. Specifically, consumers are seeing these trends splashed across their news feeds on social media. Between A-list celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Ellen DeGeneres, and Ariana Grande touting their vegan identities online, and Instagram influencers in the holistic well-being, fitness and lifestyle, and ethical foodie realms, the prevalence of plant-based diets on social media (and the pressure to adopt one that comes along with it) is stronger than ever. As proof, the use of hashtags relating to vegetarianism and veganism, such as #cleaneating and #vegan, have risen by the millions in recent years. The result of the trend factor is that opting for plant-based products over animal-based products is now a status symbol. It’s viewed as “cool” and is a point of pride for many, especially among young adults.

The Age Factor

Several studies indicate that it is the younger generations leading the charge when it comes to adopting plant-based diets. A 2017 study by Forbes claims “the shift toward plant-based foods is being driven by millennials,” as it is this generation who is the most likely to care about animal rights, sustainability, and to have an environmental conscience. A different study conducted in Canada found that more than half of Canadians who identify as vegan or vegetarian are under the age of 35. It is also these demographics that are considered by advertisers to be the most susceptible to being “won over,” as their shopping habits are yet to be ingrained. Relatedly, the faster pace of life of younger individuals has resulted in an increased likelihood to eat ready-made food, including fast food. This convenience-based consumption pattern, coupled with the rise of veganism and vegetarianism and most importantly “flexitarianism”, has led to some of the biggest chain restaurants in the world, such as Tim Horton’s, A&W, and Burger King, adding plant-based dishes to their menus.



Nick Cooney

Nick Cooney works to develop the alternative protein space in China and worldwide.