by David Klemt

Meat-limiters Driving Change

by David Klemt

Plant-based food bowl

You’re likely familiar with dietary terms like vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, and even flexitarian, but what about meat-limiter?

As the name implies, a meat-limiter is a person actively choosing to reduce their meat intake. It’s also an umbrella term that includes vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or flexitarian diets.

Earlier this year, Datassential took a look at plant-based opportunities. Over the course of a week, 1,500 Americans ages 18 to 88 were surveyed online.

Datassential conducted their research with three partners:

  • The Culinary Institute of America
  • Food for Climate League
  • Menus of Change University Research Collaborative

The results are revealed within Datassential’s “2022 Plant-Forward Opportunity” report. To access a number of free reports, sign up with Datassential today.

Meat-limiter Guests

Just over a quarter of Americans—29 percent—are meat-limiters in some way. That number climbs to 36 percent for Gen Z, per this Datassential survey.

Of four major diets (vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, flexitarian), vegetarian and vegan are the least common. The overall US population consists overwhelmingly of meat eaters (71 percent). Nearly a quarter, 22 percent, are flexitarian.

For Gen Z, those same numbers are 65 percent and 19 percent, respectively. Interestingly, Gen Z has more vegetarians and vegans than other generations.

But then there’s this: When it comes to the daily consumption of animal proteins, Gen Z is at the top. It’s Millennials who consume the most plant-based proteins on a daily basis.

Animal proteins are still at the top across generations. However, people are consciously reducing their meat intake and seeking plant-based alternatives.

What’s Driving Meat-limiters?

In comparison to 2021, Datassential hit on a compelling finding. A mere six percent of the US population was actively reducing meat intake last year.

That number has skyrocketed in 2022. This year, per Datassential, 21 percent of consumers can be considered meat-limiters.

Given the pandemic, it makes sense to assume this dietary change is due to personal health. However, climate change is a major driver.

Overall, 55 percent of consumers feel climate change is important. That number climbs to 71 percent for meat-limiters, 69 percent of students.

Half of consumers also feel that plant-based foods, in general, are better for the planet. Nearly half (47 percent) feel these foods are also more sustainable. Again, the number increases for meat-limiters and students (and Millennials, as well).

Interestingly, two-thirds of consumers feel traditional plant-based food items are healthier than new plant-based meat alternatives. However, a little over 60 percent of consumers find both plant-based food categories healthy.


Before proceeding, it’s important to recognize that a survey of just 1,500 people comes with a margin of error.

Still, the results are compelling and provide insight into today’s consumer. Among the top insights:

  • Consumers are trying more plant-based menu items.
  • Climate change and sustainability are driving consumer decisions.
  • More consumers are concerned with their health.

Per Datassential, one way to appeal to a wide range of guests is offering “mixed dishes.” These are menu items that combine animal and plant proteins. Another way forward is menuing plant-forward dishes that include a small amount of meat, poultry, fish, or dairy.

If we accept that only a tiny fraction of the US population is vegetarian or vegan, targeting flexitarians and daily meat eaters in this way makes sense.

Image: Yoav Aziz on Unsplash