Researchers dip into the best course for marketing plant-based meat

Climate-conscious consumers are more likely to buy plant-based meat alternatives such as Quorn if they perceive them to be nutritious, safe to eat and more sustainable than meat.

That’s according to researchers from Lincoln University, who worked with other academics across the world to determine the biggest reasons why people specifically choose to buy fungal-derived mycoprotein products.

The study, Understanding Key Factors Influencing Consumers’ Willingness to Try, Buy and Pay a Price Premium for Mycoproteins, has crucial implications for food marketers and non-profit organisations advertising for health and sustainability.

Mycoprotein was commercially developed in the 1980s and is derived from Fusarium venenatum, a fungus belonging to the mould family. In spite of its availability around the world, it has not yet received widespread academic attention in terms of willingness to buy and pay a price premium.

Previous research does show that consumers appreciate mycoprotein products for their meat-like texture as well as their nutritional benefits: they are high in fibre, low in fat, sodium and sugar, and rich in essential amino acids. Additionally, compared to meat production, fewer carbon emissions and water pollution are associated with mycoprotein.

However, the study involving Lincoln researchers also found that consumers were less likely to buy mycoprotein products if they placed nutritional importance on meat and deemed the taste, texture and smell of meat important.

Based on the findings, co-author and Lincoln University Horticultural Management Senior Lecturer, Meike Rombach, said non-profit organisations could be investing in awareness campaigns and best practice advice related to sustainable, meat-free diets.

“Campaigns should focus strongly on sustainability, nutrition and healthiness, as these are important key factors driving consumers’ willingness to try, buy and pay a price premium. To stand out and be genuine, organisations should point out the relatively high price point and provide information on allergies and additional potential health-related issues.”

Dr Rombach said marketers of mycoproteins and other meat alternatives needed to thoroughly consider their targeting and profiling of potential consumers.

“Advertising nutritional and sensory similarity to meat may be appealing to consumers who enjoy eating traditional meat products, especially those who wish to reduce the meat in their diet for health reasons.

“However, such information may not be as suitable for people following a vegan or vegetarian diet. For those consumers, marketers should consider emphasising the safety and sustainability aspects of mycoprotein and make comparisons with other plant-based products.”

Source: Lincoln University

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog