Researchers from the University of Bath, the Good Food Institute, and the Center for Long Term Priorities collaborated on the first quantitative comparison of consumer attitudes towards plant-based and clean meat across China, India, and the U.S.
The open-access, peer-reviewed research was recently published in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. With over 3,000 participants surveyed, this exploration of market demand is also the most extensive to date.
Here’s what we learned:
There’s a big big big consumer base for new methods of meat production
The observation: 33 percent of U.S. consumers, 62 percent of Chinese consumers, and 63 percent of Indian consumers were “very or extremely likely to purchase plant-based meat regularly.” Clean meat clocked in at 30, 59, and 49 percent, respectively.
The takeaway: The three most populous countries in the world have robust consumer interest in plant-based and clean meat. Interest in clean meat is expected to grow once there is a product on the market and consumers are more familiar with it.
More familiarity + greater comfort with new foods = more acceptance (in every country)
The observation: In every country, the more comfortable people were of new foods and the more familiar they were with plant-based or clean meat, the higher their acceptance.
The takeaway: Continuing to normalize and get the word out about plant-based and clean meat will likely lead to greater and greater acceptance over time.
U.S. meat-eaters = U.S. target demographic
The observation: People with high meat attachment were more interested in clean meat than plant-based meat. Nevertheless, 91 percent of people interested in plant-based meat were omnivores.
The takeaway: Plant-based meat and clean meat companies could market to different consumers in the U.S.—those with low and high meat attachment, respectively. Clean meat has a crucial role to play for reaching consumers with high meat attachment: both plant-based and cell-based meat will be needed to answer market demand.
Health and nutrition are central in China
The observation: Chinese respondents who perceived plant-based meat to be healthier than conventional meat were more likely to want to buy it. Those who thought cell-based meat would offer a higher nutritional value than conventional meat were also more likely to buy it.
The takeaway: Optimizing the nutritional profiles of plant-based and cell-based meat, especially with regards to conventional meat (less saturated fat, more omega-3s, anyone?), seems like an especially excellent plan in Chinese markets. Further research should also assess food safety considerations as a potential driver of consumer preference for plant-based and cell-based meat.
Indian consumers really get the necessity thing
The observation: Plant-based and clean meat acceptance both correlated with perceived necessity among Indian respondents. Sustainability drove plant-based meat acceptance, and ethics drove clean meat acceptance.
The takeaway: Indian consumers seem most attuned to the environmental and ethical challenges of conventional meat production. Sustainability- and ethics-forward marketing may be more effective in India than China and the U.S.
Messaging plant-based and cell-based meat effectively in different markets around the world will be critical for shifting the global food system.
For more information and the full report, click here.