The Battle for Our Stomachs

The Battle for Our Stomachs

As fresh vegetables once again begin to show up at farmers’ markets, in CSA boxes and at roadside stands across the country, it’s only natural to think about how wonderful veggies can be.

Now, truth be told, I’m a carnivore – but my boss, two of my younger cousins, and many of my friends are vegetarians or vegans. And these are their glory days – the salad days of summer.

One might assume that vegetarians (and especially vegans) are hard-core environmental activists with dreadlocks who eschew turkey for tofurkey, and hot dogs for not dogs. But we found in Green Living Pulse™ 2012 that the most likely vegetarians and vegans belong to our Seeker segment – the second greenest segment on our continuum. They’re also the most likely to shop at farmers’ markets, belong to food co-ops, grow their own food and avoid GMOs.

Seekers (in case you’re not familiar with our segmentation system) are pretty close to average Americans. They’re the largest of our four segments at 33% of the total population – and 92% of them say they’re looking for greener products. So what’s the future for meat in this country? There’s a simmering battle over what will fill our collective stomachs – tenderloin or tofu? Beef or beans?

One indicator is the increase in vegetarian and vegan children. According to the book Microtrends, published in 2007, there were 1.5 million vegetarian or vegan children between ages 8 and 18. That number has probably risen in the past five years, and is definitely much higher than 50 years ago. Can you imagine what would happen if a child in the 1950’s told her mom she didn’t want to eat that pork chop because it came from a pig? She’d likely get a lecture about nutrition, how all the other kids eat their meat (or they won’t get dessert) and threatened with no dinner.

Today, children don’t get the same lecture. Instead, they’re likely praised for expressing their individuality and sensitivity toward helpless creatures. They’re exposed to more and more eco-friendly messaging at school, and it’s changing their preferences. Even for fast food. Recent headlines reported that kids meal sales are down and salad sales are up.

Maybe it’s time for our culture to examine our meat and potatoes mentality and for Big Food companies to seriously re-imagine a more veggie-friendly future. Maybe it’s time to rethink the American dinner table, breakfast plate and lunch bag. And as trend-savvy marketers with an interest in sustainability, maybe it’s time to deliver some messaging that’s as fresh as the six quarts of local, organic strawberries that arrived at my door from my CSA this morning.

About the Author

Karen Barnes

Karen is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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