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.

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