Consumer acceptance of meat analogues can be increased through repeated exposures to products containing substitute meat proteins, but industry must work to improve quality and establish initial positive experiences, say researchers from Wageningen University in The Netherlands.
The environmental impact of meat production is one reason for industry to push the agenda on meat substitutes; however, such changes in consumption will only work if meat substitutes are attractive to consumers, the researchers warn.
Led by Annet Hoek, the new study does exactly that, by exploring the long-term consumer acceptance of environmentally sustainable alternatives to meat.
The team investigated the effects of repeated exposure to two types of meat substitutes (tofu and Quorn) and a meat reference product (chicken) among 89 non-vegetarian people in a home use test. The participants consumed one type of product as part of a self-selected hot meal 20 times during a 10 week period.
Hoek reported that initial liking (on a scale out of 100) for chicken was higher (81) than for Quorn (60) and tofu (68). They found that participants trying non meat-like products, such as tofu showed an increased liking for them over time.
The researchers found a noticeably different individual response within the three product groups, showing both ‘boredom' and ‘mere exposure' patterns, such as increases in liking due to repeated exposure.However, meat-based (chicken) and meat-like substitutes (Quorn) made them increasingly bored. Hoek and colleagues reveal study participants showed increases in liking due to ‘mere exposure' significantly more frequently with tofu.
The team noted that the level of boredom with the products varied between people and the type of meals consumed. Hoek found out that while repeated exposure to food products that are relatively unfamiliar and distinct - such as meat substitutes - might increase acceptance in certain segments of consumers, if initial liking is low compared to familiar products (such as meat) most consumers will hardly ever consume these products recurrently in real life.
Source: Wageningen University