Increased consumption of plant-based substitutes does not increase consumer acceptance

The study, published in the journal Appetite, ​explored whether increasing consumer familiarity with plant-based meat analogues (PBMA) can cause consumers to develop an increased fondness for them over time.

Building an acquired taste

Previous research has shown that consumer reluctance to accept PBMAs has stemmed from their unfamiliarity, negative perceptions, and social-cultural aspects.  

A body of research suggests that with increased consumption, foods can become more acceptable to consumers. However, the counterweight to this is research suggesting that increased exposure can decrease ​consumer liking for foods, making them seem ‘boring.’

In studies of plant-based substitutes that found consumer ‘boredom’ increasing, participants also used these ingredients in a wide range of meals to mitigate this by providing variety.

Testing consumer attitudes

To test whether consumer acceptance really would increase over time, researchers recruited 61 participants who ate a diet rich in meat and poor in PBMAs.

Over a period of four weeks, the participants were tasked with cooking two meals a week, one a pre-set meal box with all the ingredients needed for the meal, and one a meal of their own choosing, with two PBMAs, plant-based chicken and plant-based mince.

They were assigned to two subgroups: one group always prepared their own meal with plant-based chicken and had a meal-box with plant-based mince, and the other vice-versa. Both before and after the four week period, they filled out a questionnaire, followed by a third one four weeks later on their consumption habits in those four weeks following the main study period. 179 people were chosen as a control group to counterbalance these participants.