Consumers’ associations, perceptions and acceptance of meat and plant-based meat alternatives

Elsevier, Food Quality and Preference, Volume 87, January 2021, 104063
Fabienne Michel, Christina Hartmann, and Michael Siegrist

The consumption of meat contributes significantly to undesirable effects on the environment. In order to reduce the impact of animal husbandry, one approach is to decrease meat consumption by substituting plant-based meat alternatives. Because the consumption of such meat alternatives is currently rather low, the aim of this research was to identify the barriers that keep people from consuming meat alternatives and increase the probability of future consumption. This was accomplished by exploring free associations people have towards meat and meat alternatives, comparing selected meat products with their respective meat alternatives using the semantic differential, and studying the perceived appropriateness of eating meat alternatives in different consumption situations. To achieve these objectives, we carried out an online survey with participants from Germany (N = 1039). Our results suggest that while meat is being associated with positive terms, meat alternatives were viewed more negatively. The previous findings that meat alternatives should be similar to meat with regard to taste, texture, and ease of preparation were confirmed. Results from the direct comparison of meat with corresponding meat alternatives indicate that meat alternatives are similarly perceived to their processed meat counterparts. Regarding different consumption situations, our results show that eating meat alternatives is perceived to be more appropriate in situations where one eats alone or with family and friends. In conclusion, our findings demonstrate that meat alternatives have the best chance of successfully replacing meat when they closely resemble highly processed meat products in taste and texture and are offered at competitive prices. The recommendation for producers of meat alternatives is thus to focus on replicating processed meat products instead of trying to imitate meat cuts such as steak or escalope.