Beyond Burger

Do Consumers Care About What’s in Fake Meat?

No doubt, you’ve heard the warnings. Beware of ultra-processed food. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. Look for foods with 5 ingredients or fewer. But non-meat meat is hot right now. So we have to wonder. Do consumers care about what’s in fake meat?

Well, new consumer research is in, and the answer is pretty simple. Nope. Not very much.

A Survey of 1,000 U.S. Households

We actually have data from two new surveys that are relevant – one from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) and another from Gallup. We’ll deal with the IFIC survey first. They surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults and their survey was really all about plant alternatives to animal meat.

They did ask people about their eating preferences and found – no surprise – that most people (66 percent) are omnivores. Roughly 23 percent claimed to restrict their consumption of animal meat in some way. Five percent were vegan, six percent were vegetarian, eight percent were sometimes vegetarian, and five percent were pescatarian.

What IFIC found was that nearly half of the people they surveyed had tried these meatless meats. Why? Mostly out of curiosity. I like to try new foods was the most common answer – given by 41 percent of triers. I was curious came in second as an answer from 30 percent. In third and fourth place was I’m trying to eat less meat and plant alternatives are better for the environment. As you can tell, people could give more than one answer.

Better for my health finished in seventh place with 24 percent naming that as a reason.

But the real interesting thing is that when people compared the ingredient lists for meatless meat to real meat, it didn’t make a lot of difference. One might expect that the long list of odd ingredients would be a turnoff. It wasn’t though. Belief that it was healthier only went down from 45 percent to 40 percent.

So much for the admonition to eat whole, unprocessed foods. Consumers don’t seem very concerned about what’s in this fake meat.

The Gap Between What People Say and Do

Gallup tells us that lots of people (23 percent of adults) say they’re trying to eat less meat. But are they really doing it? Not if you believe the stats on meat consumption. It’s growing. Estimates are that nearly 10 billion land animals were killed for food in 2019.

So that might mean either of two things. Perhaps this is a passing fad. People are just trying these meatless meats as a novelty and kidding themselves about the reasons. Or maybe fake meat is getting a solid start. People can look past the long ingredient list and most (60 percent of triers) report to Gallup that they intend to keep on buying this stuff. It certainly helps that younger and upscale consumers are the ones who are most positive about it.

Time will tell, but we have our doubts. The bigger question, in our minds, is what’s next? Will innovators come up with more wholesome options?

Click here for the IFIC study and here for further perspective on it. For the Gallup research, click here and here. Then for further perspective, click here.

Beyond Burger, photograph © Beyond Meat Inc / Wikimedia Commons

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February 6, 2020