Driven by consumer interest in sustainable diets, plant-based meat alternatives (PBMA) are gaining popularity with more products available on the market. Consumers increasingly demand “clean label” (CL) products free of additives and using a limited number of ingredients. This is a challenge for PBMA producers due to the difficulty of imitating meat-like properties without using additives. Against this backdrop, this study investigated consumer understanding and interpretation of CL status in PBMA, using plant-based burger recipes as case study. Eight plant-based burger recipes – systematically varying in main plant protein ingredient, recipe length, familiarity of ingredients, and clean-label status – were evaluated by consumers (N = 55) using projective mapping. The length of the ingredients list, together with the main ingredients was the primary aspect that caught the attention of the consumers. Consumers separated longer recipes – described as more complex, processed, unhealthy but also tasty – from shorter recipes – perceived as simpler and healthier, but less meat-like. Furthermore, a smaller part of the data was explained by the presence of chemical additives. Overall, this study indicates that the length the ingredient list is more important for consumer perception of CL status in PBMA than the presence of chemical additives per se.
Elsevier, Future Foods, Volume 6, December 2022