Increased consumption of plant-based substitutes does not increase consumer acceptance

By Augustus Bambridge-Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Participants ate meals containing plant-based mince and plant-based chicken over four weeks. Image Source: DronG/Getty Images
Participants ate meals containing plant-based mince and plant-based chicken over four weeks. Image Source: DronG/Getty Images

Related tags plant-based plant-based meat

A new study suggests that repeated consumption of plant-based meat over time does not improve consumer liking. However, the context – what meals the plant-based substitutes are used in – is highly significant to how they receive it.

The study, published in the journal Appetite, ​explored whether increasing consumer familiarity with plant-based meat analogues (PBMA) can cause consumers to develop an increased fondness for them over time.

Building an acquired taste

Previous research has shown that consumer reluctance to accept PBMAs has stemmed from their unfamiliarity, negative perceptions, and social-cultural aspects.  

A body of research suggests that with increased consumption, foods can become more acceptable to consumers. However, the counterweight to this is research suggesting that increased exposure can decrease ​consumer liking for foods, making them seem ‘boring.’

In studies of plant-based substitutes that found consumer ‘boredom’ increasing, participants also used these ingredients in a wide range of meals to mitigate this by providing variety.

Testing consumer attitudes

To test whether consumer acceptance really would increase over time, researchers recruited 61 participants who ate a diet rich in meat and poor in PBMAs.

Over a period of four weeks, the participants were tasked with cooking two meals a week, one a pre-set meal box with all the ingredients needed for the meal, and one a meal of their own choosing, with two PBMAs, plant-based chicken and plant-based mince.

They were assigned to two subgroups: one group always prepared their own meal with plant-based chicken and had a meal-box with plant-based mince, and the other vice-versa. Both before and after the four week period, they filled out a questionnaire, followed by a third one four weeks later on their consumption habits in those four weeks following the main study period. 179 people were chosen as a control group to counterbalance these participants.

The liking of the taste and texture of the PBMA was measured, as was the liking of the full meal, considering how important the context the PBMA is presented in is to whether it is liked. At the beginning and end of the study, participants were asked how frequently they consumed PBMAs.

No increased liking 

The research found that the liking of plant-based foods did not change over time. It did not, on the other hand, decrease over time either, which the authors of the study suggest may be due to the meal variety mitigating the potential ‘boredom’ that the PBMA’s may otherwise elicit.

However, context was shown to be highly important. The study found that ‘desire to eat’ was stronger for participants’ self-created meals than for the meal-box options. Overall meal liking also showed a strong correlation with liking for PBMAs, suggesting the importance of incorporating PBMAs into meals.

Furthermore, while there was an overall preference for plant-based mince over plant-based chicken, the difference was less significant if the two appeared in the same meal.

While the study did not increase liking of PBMAs, it did increase usage. In the questionnaire four weeks following the end of the main section of the study, the researchers found that those who had consumed plant-based meals had done so after the end of the test period more frequently than those in the control group.

Sourced From: Appetite
'What's cooking, if not meat? Effects of repeated home-use, recipe inspiration and meal context on perception of plant-based meat analogues’
Published on: 24 November 2023
Authors: G. van Bergen, N. Neufingerl, S. Meijboom, K. R. Spierings, E. H. Zandstra, I. Polet

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