Mary Allen • March 04 2019

New study highlights plant-based and cultivated meat acceptance in the U.S., China, and India

In every country, the more comfortable people were with new foods and the more familiar they were with plant-based or cultivated meat, the higher their acceptance.

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 cultivated 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.” Cultivated meat clocked in at 30, 59, and 56 percent, respectively.

The takeaway: The three most populous countries in the world have robust consumer interest in plant-based and cultivated meat. Interest in cultivated meat is expected to grow once there is a product on the market and consumers are more familiar with it.

More familiarity = more acceptance (in every country)

The observation: In every country, the more familiar they were with plant-based or cultivated meat, the higher their acceptance.

The takeaway: Continuing to normalize and get the word out about plant-based and cultivated 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 cultivated meat than plant-based meat. Nevertheless, 91 percent of people interested in plant-based meat were omnivores.

The takeaway: Plant-based meat and cultivated meat companies could market to different consumers in the U.S.—those with low and high meat attachment, respectively. Cultivated meat has a crucial role to play for reaching consumers with high meat attachment: both plant-based and cultivated meat will be needed to answer market demand.

Health and nutrition is 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 cultivated 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 cultivated 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 cultivated meat.

Indian consumers really get the necessity thing

The observation: Plant-based and cultivated meat acceptance both correlated with perceived necessity among Indian respondents. Sustainability drove plant-based meat acceptance, and ethics drove cultivated 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 cultivated meat effectively in different markets around the world will be critical for shifting the global food system. Read the full report here.

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