A new study by the NPD Group looks at whether surging demand for plant-based foods is a passing fad or a long-term trend.

“The answer depends on the consumer and their reasons for consuming plant-based foods in the first place” is the company’s conclusion.

Millennials, born 1981-1996, are the top consumers of plant-based meat alternatives, according to the study, The Future of Plant-based Snapshot.

“This generational group has adopted plant-based meat alternatives as a way to indulge sensibly while addressing their long-term health goals and animal treatment concerns.”

Gen Xers, born 1965-1980, are also a core consumer group of plant-based meat alternatives, and because many in this group are parents of Gen Zs, born 1997 to present, they’ve been raised on plant-based beverages and foods.

“Boomers are decelerating their consumption of plant-based meat alternatives but are the top consumers are plant-based dairy alternatives,” according to NPD. 

Since the core consumer groups for plant-based dairy and meat alternatives are younger, NPD forecasts that plant-based foods, to varying degrees, do have staying power. NPD’s study also finds that plant-based food consumption is not about rejecting traditional protein sources as about 90% of plant-based users are neither vegetarian nor vegan, noting that consumers want options.

“First and foremost, taste is king when considering entering the plant-based food category,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “Attributes such as health and convenience go far to drive consumption, but if the flavor profile falls below consumers’ expectations, then the product will likely have a short run. Whether it’s marketing a plant-based burger that reproduces the meat-eating experience or a dairy alternative that has the taste and texture of milk, consumers now have substitution without sacrifice.”