The trend towards increased veganism has long been touted as holding promise for increased macadamia nut consumption, but the question is, how big is the market and how much room is there for increasing the demand?

In 2022, the market value of plant-based meat worldwide was estimated at more than US$10 billion. This figure is estimated to reach almost US$40 billion by 2027. Leading the trend is Gen Z, or youngsters born between 1997 and 2012, and who are currently in their pre-teens to mid-to-late 20s. While this segment will have an increasing influence on food demand as they age and start exercising greater power over their diets, they are also set to influence future generations and could ultimately play a big role in the future of meat consumption and the meat replacement production industry.

For those who supply the products acceptable to a vegan proponent, understanding what drives the market and the scope of its potential is vital for the maximisation of any marketing opportunities on offer. This is particularly applicable for the macadamia sector.

Jayne Bullen, manager of The Noakes Foundation, says to successfully switch to veganism is to avoid increasing carbohydrate and sugar intake. This is common in those excluding meat and trying to achieve satiety, she says.

“Macadamia nuts are a very useful inclusion in a vegan diet because they provide that feeling of satiety and as a result, reduce snacking. The nut has anti-inflammatory properties and minimal sugar and carbohydrate content. Our studies have shown that macadamia nut oil is cardio- protective so inclusion in the diet can prevent heart disease.”

The latter point, Bullen says, is particularly important as more than half of the vegans in a recent study said they chose the diet for health reasons.


The research, by the Medical Inspiration Daily for Strong Society (MIDSS) on Gen Z vegans and non-vegans in the United States, shows that only 17% of Gen Z vegans follow the diet for environmental benefits, despite the amount of evidence suggesting the positive impact of a vegan diet on reducing deforestation and slowing the rate of climate change.

Editor of MIDSS, Jennie Miller, says that’s not to say that those who make the change are unaware of the environmental benefits of such a diet. “A total of 40% of Gen Z vegans who took the survey believed veganism had a positive impact on the environment,” she says.

Surprisingly, only 17% of Gen Z vegans said they were vegan because they would rather not eat animal products. This suggests most did not make their choice based on ethical reasons. Further, just more than 3% of the Gen Z vegans in the study admitted to being inspired by influencers.

Miller agrees the challenges presented by a vegan diet are plenty, many of which point to a food industry not fully geared towards non-meat eaters. A craving for animal products and the feeling of missing out on good food, she says, are two of the biggest challenges faced by vegans. “I find this surprising, considering the amount of plant-based meat alternatives on the market today.”

But, she adds, the products are pricey, which could weigh heavily on monthly budgets and Gen Zs could find it difficult to prepare appetising alternatives to animal-based meals.

The next two challenges cited in equal measure in the study by 10% of the vegan respondents were a lack of nutrition and “social factors”.


Getting the nutrients balance right on a 100% vegan diet can be a problem – especially for adolescents. A vegan diet tends to be lower in several essential nutrients, including vitamin D, calcium, iodine, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and iron.

This raises alarm bells for Gen Zs or their parents, who might not be aware of the potential nutrient deficiencies and neglect supplementation. They risk following a diet lacking in essential nutrients necessary for optimal health.

Bullen highlights the benefit of greater macadamia nut inclusion in a vegan diet.

“Vegan diets generally include high saturated fats and not enough poly- and monounsaturated fats. The brain needs the latter to function optimally, which is why the brain is often the first to suffer when a vegan diet is adopted. Macadamia nuts are primarily composed of monounsaturated fats, which are considered heart-healthy fats. Monounsaturated fats make up the majority of the oil content in macadamia nuts, accounting for approximately 78% to 84% of the total oil content. It is a composite food, meaning it not only has a good mix of essential nutrients, but how the nutrients are structured in the nut makes it more beneficial to the brain and body.”

Campaigns like meat-free Mondays and meatless May are driving reduced meat consumption. In 2022, Americans consumed an average of 300 grams a day of plant-based meat substitutes, including those made with eggs or dairy.

The MIDSS research shows that one-third of Gen Z vegans were vegan for two years and just more than 20% were vegan for three years or more. However, most were vegan for two years or less. Nevertheless, contrary to popular belief that Gen Zs are susceptible to trends, the majority say they will remain vegan for at least the next five years, with health being the driving factor.

When asked which factor most influenced their opinion of veganism, almost a third of non-vegans said protecting animals was the most important, and another third cited health benefits. Besides that, 18% thought that protecting the environment was the most influential message.

Compared with vegan respondents, fewer non-vegans had a positive outlook on the vegan trend. Only 35% thought that veganism was “a good movement and should be more popular”. Conversely, 38% had a negative view of veganism, with most saying veganism was “pointless and unnecessary”; a few dubbed it “a fad”, saying that people followed it “without being well-informed”.

One quarter of non-vegan Gen Zs in the study felt neutral about the issue, saying “people are free to choose the diets that suit them”, while 2% of respondents said they believed veganism was “good” and non-vegans were “cruel to animals and the environment” but veganism shouldn’t be forced on people.

When asked whether they might change over to a vegan diet in the next five years, 79% of respondents said no and 13% said they would, with 8% undecided.


Miller says while becoming a vegan is challenging, and not possible for many, a flexitarian diet, which is predominantly plant-based and occasionally includes animal-based foods, could be the answer for those concerned about consuming meat.

“The majority of vegan (53%) and non-vegan (73%) Gen Zs did not know the term ‘flexitarian’. Nevertheless, of those who did understand the term, most were positive about it. A total of 27% of the non-vegans who understood the term said they thought it was a good idea, while 34% of the vegans in the study said they might consider it a step in making the change.”

It is predicted that populations in developed nations will, in time, eat much less meat and more plant-based foods, hopefully signalling more growth and expanded opportunities for the future of the macadamia.