2 min read

How Hip-Hop Made Plant-Based Cool

Meatless meat is booming. But what’s propelling the protein alternative trend? While climate change, animal welfare, and health concerns play a role, hip-hop is paving the way for the plant-based movement.

The numbers: Plant-based eating is on the rise. According to a 2017 Nielsen survey, 39% of Americans are trying to eat more plant-based foods. And a new Gallup poll found African Americans to be the fastest-growing segment of the plant-based population.

  • In the last 12 months, white Americans reported eating 10% less meat while people of color reported eating 31% less.
  • A 2016 Pew Research Center survey found 3% of American adults overall identified as vegan. Among African American adults, that number jumps to 8%.

Zooming out: Could hip-hop’s cultural cache be the missing ingredient that turns a bland veggie burger into a billion-dollar empire?

Kale Rules Everything Around Me

Many of hip-hop’s most prominent figures are going plant-based. Among the converts, Snoop Dogg, most of Wu-Tang Clan, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, KRS-One, Jermaine Dupri, Jaden Smith, and A$AP Rocky have made the switch.

But this isn’t a new phenomenon. In his 1990 song “Beef”, KRS-One called meat “the number one drug on the street”. Common, the king of conscious rap, began moving away from meat in the early ’90s. And rapper/producer Jermaine Dupri adopted a vegan diet over a decade ago.

More than a personal choice, these artists have become advocates for and investors in meat-free living.

In 2015, Jay-Z and Beyoncé launched 22 Days Nutrition, a vegan nutrition company. Jay-Z is also an investor in vegan cookie maker Partake Foods and plant-based protein company Impossible Foods. Impossible also counts Jaden Smith, Questlove, and will.i.am among its list of celebrity investors while partnering with Wu-Tang Clan on promotional campaigns. Meanwhile, Beyond Meat is backed by Snoop Dogg.

The Buzzworthy Burger

The idea of a veggie burger isn’t new. So, what’s different this time around? Timing.

Product zeitgeist fit. In startup circles, product/market fit—a product’s ability to satisfy a strong market demand—is the holy grail. But a product that plays into or shifts culture is pretty powerful, too.

At a time when climate change, the Western diet, and industrial farming have us questioning our way of life, celebrity-backed veggie burgers are perfectly suited for the mood of the times. Add to that the culture cache that comes with hip-hop’s cosign and you’ll see that the plant-based meat industry has mastered product zeitgeist fit.

A Plant-based Future

We’re in the early days of what’s quickly becoming a plant-based future. No, meat isn’t going anywhere — globally, meat-eating is on the rise. But, given the momentum and money behind plant-based and lab-grown alternatives, no animal protein is safe from disruption.

  • Barclays expects the market for alternative meat to jump 1,000% in the next decade to reach $140B.
  • In the US, investors put $16B into plant-based meat, egg, and dairy companies since 2009, including $13B in 2017 and 2018 alone.

Punchline: From fish and shrimp to chicken nuggets, milk, and ice cream, any food that can be plant-based will be. And, whether it’s rappers, actors, or other public figures, influencers will help usher meat alternatives into the mainstream.

Fitt Insider Weekly Letter

Every Tuesday, we’ll send you an email filled with curated insights on the industry’s most important news.