SHIFT20: Consumer health perceptions of plant-based meat are evolving, reports IFIC

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

©GettyImages / Andrei Stanescu
©GettyImages / Andrei Stanescu

Related tags SHIFT20 plant-based meat animal protein

The buzz around plant-based meat alternatives is strong, but what is the full consumer perception of plant-based protein products in terms of nutrition and healthfulness compared to animal meat, and what motivates consumers to buy plant alternatives?

At SHIFT20, the virtual IFT Show, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) presented its findings from a recent survey of 1,000 US adults, which sought to answer these questions.

Consumer definition of plant-based eating

Before diving into consumers' nutritional perceptions of plant-based meat alternatives, IFIC asked respondents to characterize what they believe defines a plant-based diet. 

According to survey results, the top response to this question was a plant-based diet is a "vegan diet in which you avoid all animal products, including eggs and dairy."​ The next top response was "a diet that emphasized minimally-processed foods that comes from plants, with limited consumption of animal meat, eggs, and dairy."


"I found this fascinating because it didn’t necessarily align with what my definition of a plant-based diet is. So, it's always important to consider where the consumer is in terms of understanding or perceptions of certain topics,"​ said Kris Sollid, RD, senior director of nutrition communications, IFIC, during the SHIFT20 virtual presentation.

Who has tried plant-based alternatives? And why?

According to the consumer survey, about half of respondents have eaten a plant-based alternative. When asked what motivated them to try a plant-based meat alternative, the most common answer was curiosity -- 41% of respondents reported "I like to try new foods"​ and 30% said "I've been hearing about them​ [plant alternatives to animal meat] and was curious."

"The adventurous eater and the curious eater seem to be driving trial of plant alternatives to animal meat,"​ said Sollid. 

When asked what they liked most about plant-based meat alternatives (among the sample that had tried these products), 53% reported liking the taste, 35% said they liked the texture, and 34% said the products taste like meat. 

Among the sample of respondents who had not tried plant-based meat alternatives, when asked why, 31% said anticipation of not liking the product was the top reason for not trying plant alternatives. 

Health perception

To assess consumer health perceptions of plant-based meat vs animal meat, IFIC performed an exercise in which it presented respondents with two blind nutrition labels: Product A (plant alternative to beef) and Product B (a 100% beef product).

"What we found after comparing nutrition facts is that nearly half of people said that the plant alternative is healthier than animal meat,"​ said Sollid. About a quarter of respondents said Product B (100% beef product) was the healthier product. 


Next, IFIC included the product labels with its ingredients (thereby divulging which product was plant-based and which was the 100% animal beef product).

After the ingredients list was divulged, slightly fewer respondents (40%) said Product A was healthier and conversely the number of people that said Product B was healthier grew from 25% to 29%, according to the survey.

"I think I find that most interesting, the effect wasn't as large as we might have assumed it would be after we divulged the ingredients list to our survey takers,"​ said Sollid. 

Will the novelty of plant-based alternatives wear off?

"The big question is if these products are here to stay? My personal perception is that they are,"​ said Sollid.

In its survey, IFIC asked consumers about purchasing intent of plant-based meat alternative products. 

"What you see is that the responses are a little bit mixed,"​ noted Sollid. 

The survey revealed that 18% of consumers said that they have purchased plant alternatives to meat and do not intend to buy them again. At the same time, 27% of respondents said they have purchased these products before and they do intend to buy them again. 

"On the reverse side in terms of this question we do see that about half of our sample has not purchased these products," a​dded Sollid.


"I certainly think there's a lot of room to grow for these products, the consumer mindset is there, and I think only time will tell how much they follow through on that," ​said Sollid. 

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Consumer Attitudes on Ultra-Processed Foods Revealed

Consumer Attitudes on Ultra-Processed Foods Revealed

Content provided by Ayana Bio | 12-Jan-2024 | White Paper

Ayana Bio conducted the Ultra-Processed Food (UPF) Pulse survey, offering insight into consumers’ willingness to consume UPFs, as well as the variables...

Future Food-Tech San Francisco, March 21-22, 2024

Future Food-Tech San Francisco, March 21-22, 2024

Content provided by Rethink Events Ltd | 11-Jan-2024 | Event Programme

Future Food-Tech is the go-to meeting place for the food-tech industry to collaborate towards a healthier food system for people and planet.

Palate Predictions: Top Flavor Trends for 2024

Palate Predictions: Top Flavor Trends for 2024

Content provided by T. Hasegawa USA | 08-Jan-2024 | Application Note

As consumers seek increased value and experience from food and beverages, the industry relies on research to predict category trends. Studying trends that...

Oat Groats – Heat-treated Oat Kernels

Oat Groats – Heat-treated Oat Kernels

Content provided by Lantmännen Biorefineries AB | 06-Dec-2023 | Product Brochure

Lantmännen offers now Oat Groats: Heat-treated oat kernels, also known as oat groats or kilned oats, undergo heat treatment to inhibit enzymes that could...

Related suppliers

Follow us


View more