For Canadians, The Jury Is Still Out On Plant-Based Meat
The market for plant-based proteins continues to expand across North America. Over the past year, companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have repeatedly grabbed the headlines with stories about their realistic meat replacers. Most major fast-food chains now feature these items on their menus. Indeed, people are paying increased attention to the growing body of evidence linking the consumption of animal products with negative health, animal welfare, and environmental outcomes. In response, they are seeking more and better meat substitutes.
Early iterations of meat analogs didn’t taste like meat. Given the pejorative label of “fake meat,” they failed to attract consumers, so much so that newer generations of meat replacers have gone to great lengths to distance themselves from their earlier brethren. Startup companies have now solved some of the taste and texture problems, leading to an explosion in demand for these newer products. The size of the North American market for meat analogs grew to $6.4 billion by 2016 and is on a steep upward trajectory. Indeed, a 2017 survey showed that 43% of Canadians and 39% of U.S. residents were trying to replace at least some of their meat with plant-based alternatives.
This study focused on how plant-based proteins fit into food choices. It examined the interactions between dietary identity (omnivore, veg*n, flexitarian and so forth), opinions about plant-based alternatives, and whether participants were likely to try them. Data was collected through a 2017 national survey of 410 Canadian adults. Since the sample demographics did not match with those of the overall Canadian population, the researchers did advise caution with the results.
That said, participants who were younger, more educated, and employed (as opposed to retired) reported a greater willingness to try newer meat substitutes. Those who identified as, meat reducers were also more inclined to try new plant-based proteins. However, the best predictor of future consumption of meat alternatives was past and current consumption of such foods. Over three-quarters of Canadians, 77%, reported having tried a meat substitutes in the prior year. And perhaps unsurprisingly, if respondents had consumed alternative proteins recently, they were more willing to try newer plant-based alternatives.
Yet, the stigma of “fake meat” is still an issue with Canadian consumers. Enjoyability, affordability, availability, the perceived unhealthiness of meat analogs, and the high level of processing are still barriers to acceptance. To expand the market for plant-based foods, study results suggest that advocates should focus on younger consumers and those who already identify as meat reducers. These groups are willing to change their diet and to try new foods. Finding ways to reduce the processing of meat substitutes could also attract consumers wary of salt and other food additives.