Perceptions Of Plant-Based Meat In Urban China
Plant-based meat alternatives have become increasingly popular around the world, with many large cities now offering plant-based options in grocery stores and restaurants. There has been plenty of research into this emerging market in Western societies. But how are plant-based products perceived in China, where meat consumption has been on the rise?
The authors of this study surveyed 579 consumers in four major cities in China to find out more about their experiences with and preferences about plant-based meat alternatives. The results revealed that the majority of Chinese consumers in larger cities are open to alternative proteins. 85% of respondents had eaten plant-based meat alternatives before, while 82% had purchased them.
Buddhists, wealthier respondents, and people who were reducing or eliminating meat were the most likely to have bought plant-based meat. The survey found that the majority of respondents were reducing their meat and animal product consumption. Of the participants, a little over 1% identified as vegan, almost 9% were vegetarian, almost 10% were pescatarian, and 49% were flexitarian.
The motivations for purchasing plant-based meats were varied. Most often, people wanted to try new (58%) or healthy (56%) foods, with environmental concerns also being commonly reported (31%). Interestingly, only 6% of respondents cited animal welfare as a motivation for buying plant-based meats. Flexitarians were most likely to cite health reasons for purchasing plant-based meat. Vegans, vegetarians, and pescatarians were most likely to cite religion or environmental concerns as a reason.
Many consumers seemed to be aware of the environmental and health aspects of meat. 45% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “Animal-based meat is good for the environment.” Meanwhile, 49% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “The nutrition of plant-based meats can replace the nutrition of animal-based meat.”
The authors of the survey also conducted a choice experiment with every respondent who had tried plant-based meats before. They analyzed the influence of several factors, including country of origin, price, and labels indicating taste. 79% of customers preferred plant-based meats, 83% preferred meat advertised as “fresh and tender,” and 100% preferred meat produced in China. Women, wealthier respondents, and more highly educated respondents were willing to pay more than other groups for meat with any of the three traits studied.
Respondents were willing to pay twice as much as the highest price plant-based meat actually sells for in China. Because they knew they were taking a survey, however, they may have claimed that they were willing to pay more than they actually are. Flexitarians were willing to pay twice as much for plant-based meat compared to non-flexitarians. The authors speculated that these people may be willing to pay a higher price because they value successfully reducing their meat consumption.
Most urban Chinese consumers are open to alternative proteins and are trying to reduce their meat consumption. They’re aware of the negative health and environmental consequences of meat. However, the respondents in this study didn’t seem to care much about animal welfare — they try plant-based meat because it’s new or because they perceive it as healthy. Meanwhile, consumers, especially flexitarians, are willing to pay a high price for plant-based meat.
Plant-based meat producers can benefit from marketing their products with taste labels and ensuring that the ingredients used are sourced from China. While this study is overall good news for the plant-based meat market in China, consumers’ lack of concern for animal welfare suggests that animal advocates have more work to do in this area.