How Much Will Consumers Pay For Clean Meat?
Faunalytics recently completed a study about consumer acceptance of clean meat. One of the measures in the study was a scenario asking consumers to imagine a choice between clean and conventional meat. They were then asked how much they would be willing to pay for clean meat. This analysis provides details about those amounts.
Summary of Findings
When people were asked to tell us the most they would be willing to pay for clean meat versions of specific beef, chicken and fish products, about 40% indicated they would be willing to pay more for clean vs. conventional products.
- For beef, 14% percent of respondents were willing to pay a premium of 25% or more. Twenty-five percent were willing to pay a premium up to 24.9%.
- For chicken, 22% of respondents were willing to pay premiums of 25% or more—and a similar number for fish. Nineteen percent were willing to pay a premium up to 24.9% for each.
- About a quarter of respondents indicated they would pay less for clean meat vs. conventional and 13-14% would buy the conventional meat product instead of the clean meat version regardless of price.
These results likely overstate willingness to pay for clean meat somewhat. First, because the study included positive messages that would not appear at the point of sale. Also, people claim that they are willing to pay more in response to survey questions than they are when actually spending their money. Despite these limitations, Faunalytics believes the results are encouraging for clean meat producers, marketers and investors.
Method & Findings
First, the scenario* used in the study is shown below.
In the full report linked above, no dollar amounts are used. Instead, we put the amounts people would pay for clean meat into four categories. These categories indicated whether people would pay more than for conventional meat, the same as for conventional meat, less than for conventional meat, or would not buy the clean meat product at all. In other words, for the chicken nugget scenario shown above, we categorized their responses as more than, less than, or exactly $6.99, with a fourth category for those who checked the box.
However, we know that advocates and manufacturers of clean meat would like a better idea of the actual amounts people will be willing to pay when it becomes commercially available.
Because of the keen interest in this information and the lack of available data, we have undertaken this analysis, calculating the amounts that study participants provided as a percentage of the equivalent conventional meat product.
Please note that there are some very important caveats that limit how much weight should be given to the results. These are described first, and we strongly encourage readers to consider them seriously.
Limitations and Interpretation
The purpose of the study was to test the effectiveness of positive messaging about clean meat, and the scenarios directly followed that messaging. In real life, people shopping for meat will not have read positive messages immediately before making a purchase, so these estimates are probably a little high.
The estimates are likely high for another reason as well. Because this is a hypothetical scenario asking participants to imagine what they would pay, it is likely affected by hypothetical bias. This is a common phenomenon in which consumers tend to overestimate how much they would pay for a product if they don’t actually have to pay for it in the study. In short, when people in a study try to imagine spending money, they aren’t that good at it. Spending real money “hurts” more than imagining it so we tend to overestimate what we’re willing to pay for things.
It’s hard to know how much people overestimate what they’re willing to spend for a product. A review article found that how much people overestimate varies a lot from study to study, but the median (middle of the range) estimate was 135%—not a small amount!
Considering these two limitations (the scenarios directly following positive messages and the influence of hypothetical bias), the percentages presented below should probably be interpreted as the highest possible values that might be observed in real life—they are likely to be inflated.
What Will People Pay?
This blog presents the amounts that participants were willing to pay for clean meat products as a percentage of the equivalent conventional meat product. Therefore, values less than 100% indicate participants who were willing to pay less for clean meat than for conventional meat. Values greater than 100% indicate participants who were will to pay more for clean meat than for conventional meat. A value of 100% indicates that they would pay the same amount for either.
Table 1 presents proportions for all participants in the study.
Table 1. Overall Willingness to Pay for Clean Chicken, Beef, and Fish Relative to Conventional Products
A few things are worth noting in Table 1. First, as noted in the full report, about 40% of participants said they would pay more for clean meat than for conventional meat when choosing between them. Most of those would pay in the range of 101-150% of the price of conventional meat, although the specifics differ a little by type of meat (chicken, beef, or fish).
Almost another quarter of participants wouldn’t mind paying the same amount for clean meat as they would for conventional meat.
Overall, despite the limitations described above, these results are encouraging for clean meat producers and marketers.
Does the type of message affect what people will pay?
As described in the full report, participants saw one of four positive messages about clean meat. Participants who read a message arguing that conventional meat is unnatural were willing to pay more for clean meat relative to participants who read a general message describing clean meat’s benefits. This indicates that the ‘conventional meat is unnatural’ message increased what consumers were willing to pay. Table 2 shows these two messages. For the other two messages (which were unsuccessful) see the full report.
Table 2. Positive Messages Presented to Participants.
Table 3 presents proportions for the two groups of participants who read those messages: ‘conventional meat is unnatural’ and the control message. This simply allows the difference to be seen in more detail.
Table 3. Willingness to Pay for Clean Chicken, Beef, and Fish Relative to Conventional (Conv’l) Products: Message Comparison
The results of these analyses should encourage people invested in the future of clean meat.
It is unlikely that clean meat will be cost-competitive with conventional products when it first appears in restaurants or grocery stores. However, these estimates suggest that a fairly large proportion of people would consider buying it even if it costs more. This willingness to pay more may be particularly strong if the downsides of conventional meat are on their minds (Table 2).
There are other factors that may shift the public’s willingness to pay for clean meat between now and when it becomes available, in either direction. Negative publicity by opponents may lower it or positive publicity (like the messages used in this study) may raise it.
High prices at launch are not necessarily bad, even if they are at the upper end of the range shown here. High prices can make a product appear more valuable, creating associations with luxury and rarity. If those ideals are marketed effectively, high prices could work to clean meat’s benefit, at least to raise interest.
Once clean meat becomes more widely available—in grocery stores, as in this study scenario—this range of estimates may provide a better sense of what people are willing to pay when reaching for their next meal.