Curiosity, even more so than environmental or health concerns, ranked as the No. 1 reason why many consumers try plant-based meat alternatives, according to a survey released January 30 by the International Food Information Council Foundation. Hispanics, people under age 45, and people who had been to college were the groups more likely to have tried a plant alternative to meat.
The survey took place December 20-21, 2019, and involved 1,000 interviews of U.S. adults age 18 and over.
When asked why they decided to eat a plant alternative to animal meat, 41 percent of respondents said they liked to try new foods and 30 percent said they had heard a lot about them and were curious.
“In nearly every consumer research that we’ve conducted recently, we see that healthfulness and environmental concerns do not impact food purchasing decisions or concerns about food waste as much as taste and price,” says Kris Sollid, senior director of nutrition communications for the Washington-based IFIC Foundation. “So, our finding in this survey that the decision to try a plant alternative to animal meat is driven more by liking to try new foods and curiosity due to having heard a lot about them is not all that surprising.”
Other top answers in the plant-based meat alternatives study were trying to eat less meat at 27 percent, believing plant alternatives are better for the environment at 27 percent, thought it would taste good at 26 percent, made without harming animals at 26 percent, and believing plant alternatives are better for health at 24 percent.
The survey found 26 percent of respondents said plant alternatives are much better for the environment and 21 percent said they are somewhat better for the environment. Another 24 percent said they were not sure, and 23 percent said plant alternatives are neither better nor worse for the environment.
When asked whether they have eaten a plant alternative to animal meat, 49 percent of the total respondents said yes. The top groups were people under age 45 at 62 percent, people who had been to college at 62 percent, and Hispanics at 61 percent.
“We also found that 21 percent of Hispanics had not tried one of these products because they had not heard of them, which was significantly higher than the 4 percent of African Americans and 3 percent of whites who reported the same thing,” Sollid says.
A higher percentage of men, at 53 percent, had tried plant alternatives when compared to women, at 44 percent.
Among the people who have not tried plant alternatives to animal meat, 31 percent said it was because they did not think the plant alternatives would taste good, which was the top answer. Only 9 percent said it was because they believed plant alternatives were too processed, ranking behind not trying to eat less meat at 19 percent, do not believe plant alternatives are better for health at 15 percent, too expensive at 14 percent, unappealing ingredient list at 13 percent, plan to eat one eventually at 12 percent, and do not believe plant alternatives are better for the environment at 11 percent.
The survey found 66 percent of the respondents identified as omnivores, which ranked ahead of vegetarian at 6 percent, pescatarian at 5 percent, and vegan at 5 percent.
When asked what they liked most about preparing/eating the plant alternative to meat, the top three answers were taste at 53 percent, a texture similar to meat at 35 percent, and tasted like meat at 34 percent. When asked what they disliked most about preparing/eating the plant alternative, the top answer was nothing at 40 percent, followed by texture not similar to meat at 31 percent.
Food safety issues brought conflicting responses. When asked what they liked about preparing/eating the plant alternative, 29 percent said they were less concerned about food safety issues, but when asked what they disliked most about preparing/eating the plant alternative, 25 percent said they were more concerned about food safety issues.