Consumers’ ‘taste experience’ falls short for plant-based meats, but there’s room for improvement

By Lauren Nardella

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/vaaseenaa
Source: Getty/vaaseenaa

Related tags plant-based plant-based meat Protein Kerry

Consumers are demanding that the taste of plant-based meat match or exceed the taste of animal meat, setting a high bar for plant-based meat manufacturers to reach - but those who succeed may have the best chance of capturing the valuable flexitarian market, according to a report from taste and nutrition firm Kerry Group.

Concerns regarding sustainability and health are pushing consumers toward plant-based meat alternatives, but they continue to “seek products that are as close to the taste experience of animal products as possible.”

“The expectations for plant-based foods continues to rise and consumers don’t want to compromise,” Shannon Coco, strategic marketing director at Kerry, said in an email interview with FoodNavigator-USA.

The firm surveyed 1,500 consumers throughout the U.S., Australia, the UK and Brazil in 2022 to learn their preferences regarding plant-based burgers.

In the U.S., 63% of consumers began eating plant-based products because they are perceived as healthier, while 40% started eating plant-based products because they felt those products are “better for the planet.”

For US consumers, the standard for plant-based meat is “beef but better,” according to the report.

“What they really mean is, they want a burger with only positive taste attributes of a real beef burger coupled with improved nutrition and better environmental impact,” according to the report.

Moreover, they have even higher taste expectations for plant-based burgers than for fresh or frozen real beef burgers.

Flexitarian drives future growth

Based on its research, Kerry sees flexitarian consumers as essential for increasing market growth in the coming years, as those consumers are actively working toward reducing meat and dairy consumption.

However, their plant-based meat expectations are informed by their animal-based meat and dairy experience, and they are more critical of plant-based products that don’t measure up, placing a greater emphasis on taste and texture than vegetarian or vegan consumers.

“Delivering great taste, along with improved nutrition and sustainability credentials, will be key to success in this category,” Coco said.

Looking for traditional cues

On the whole, consumers are looking for plant-based meats that, essentially, taste, look and feel as close to meat as possible.

“They also seek cooking cues such as charring which signal that a burger is perfectly cooked and safe to eat and want meat alternatives with improved nutrition,” Kerry said.

According to Fiona Sweeney, strategic marketing director at Kerry, making plant-based meats with a great taste “can be a gateway to delivering innovative and sustainable nutrition solutions for consumers around the world.”

She pointed out that this is challenging, as a great taste experience comprises sound, sight and texture and has to pass a high bar of comparison with animal-based meat and dairy.

“Consumers want a texture and mouthfeel that’s close to meat,” Coco explained. “Without this the overall experience will be disappointing.”

Flavor depth differentiates

When developing plant-based meat products, manufacturers should focus on flavors with depth and complexity - described as multiple notes detected at the same time - in order to differentiate their plant-based burgers.

Consumers cite flavors including chargrilled and caramelized notes as favorites for plant-based burgers, in addition to “intense meaty flavor (slightly smoky, umami, and savory),” according to the report.

In the U.S., 80% of consumers surveyed said they were likely to buy plant-based burgers that are marketed as “rich and savory.”

However, consumers are turned off by bitter, plant-based notes, and manufacturers also must be careful to avoid including too much flavor.

For instance, salt levels need to be taken into consideration, along with aftertaste, Kerry explained, as they “can be perceived as artificial or unpleasant.”

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Learn more: Future Food-Tech Alternative Proteins

Learn more: Future Food-Tech Alternative Proteins

Content provided by Rethink Events Ltd | 19-Apr-2024 | White Paper

Future Food-Tech Alternative Proteins returns on June 17-18 in a new location for 2024 - the vibrant food and beverage hub, Chicago

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.

How Tech Transforms Pea Protein Production

How Tech Transforms Pea Protein Production

Content provided by Roquette | 13-Nov-2023 | Case Study

Roquette's Canadian pea protein facility is embracing technology-driven changes in production. Key developments include:


Related suppliers

Follow us


View more