Consumer Opinions on Plant-Based Meat Substitutes Vary Widely

What do consumers really think about plant-based protein products, and what makes them try the new foods or avoid them?

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By Nancy Mann Jackson

Burger King is serving the Impossible Whopper and Dunkin’s menu includes a Beyond Sausage Breakfast Sandwich, so it’s safe to assume that plant-based meat alternatives are here to stay. But what do consumers really think about plant-based protein products, and what makes them try the new foods or avoid them?

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) recently undertook three separate consumer research projects to ask those questions and more. The research results include details about who’s eating plant-based protein, what they like about it, what they don’t like about it, and how they perceive the environmental impact and healthfulness of these foods.

In IFT20 session 900, Kris Sollid (IFIC) highlights the organization’s research findings, offering an intimate window into consumers’ decision-making processes. You’ll learn how consumer perspectives toward plant-based protein line up with existing evidence related to sustainability, food science, and nutrition.

A QDOBA Mexican Eats restaurant in downtown Portland advertises the availability of Impossible brand plant-based protein.

For instance, food researchers may be surprised that many consumers disagree about what the term “plant-based diet” actually means. And more than half of consumers believe that in order to eat in a more environmentally sustainable way, they should consume the same amount or more protein from animal sources.

While 50% of consumers have tried a plant-based alternative to animal meat, their reasons for doing so aren’t always based on health or environmental priorities. In fact, the most common reasons consumers offer for trying plant-based proteins are that they like to try new foods (41%) and that they were simply curious (30%).

So, what factors drive consumers’ purchase decisions? IFIC research shows that taste is first, followed by price, healthfulness, convenience, and environmental sustainability. Among consumers who have not tried plant-based proteins, 31% say the reason is that they don’t think it will taste good.

The good news for product developers is that most consumers who have eaten plant-based meat alternatives say what they liked about the products was the taste (53%). Also, 35% liked that the food had a texture similar to meat and 34% liked that it tasted like meat.

If you’re involved in the development or marketing of plant-based meat alternatives, this IFTNEXT session is crucial for understanding your audience, their opinions, and their biases. The more you know about consumers’ attitudes toward plant-based proteins, the more successful you can be at communicating with them and meeting their needs.

Discover more about consumers' attitudes toward plant-based proteins by viewing this session in the SHIFT20 on-demand library.

Registration for SHIFT20 provides access to the on-demand library of sessions for a full year.

SHIFT20 IFTNEXT content is supported by the generous sponsorship of Ingredion.

Nancy Mann Jackson is a freelance writer based in Huntsville, Ala.

Kelly Hensel

Senior Digital Editor, IFT

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