Are consumers ready for plant-based and cultivated meat hybrids?

Blending plant-based and cell cultivated proteins is considered by many in the food tech space an opportunity to meet consumer demands for taste, texture, health, and sustainability.

Some such products are already on the market in the US. One prominent example can be found in the Impossible Burger’s use of fermentation-derived heme in its plant-based matrix, and the Good Food Institute (GFI) predicts more blended plant-based meat products are on the way.

Industry may see cultivated meat products blended with plant protein ingredients​ a way to lower costs and appeal to consumers who are looking for additional nutritional elements such as fibre, noted the alternative protein advocate earlier this year.

Another alt protein backer, ProVeg International, also sees benefits in combining the two technologies. “Knowing that taste and health are two of the most important purchase drivers when it comes to plant-based foods, hybrid plant-based/cultivated food products show a strong potential to respond to consumer demand,” ​said Mathilde Alexandre, senior project manager at ProVeg International.

But what do consumers think about hybrid meat products? Are they willing to buy and eat them?

Expectations of hybrid products ‘fairly positive’

According to an online survey conducted by ProVeg International, more than a third of UK consumers are.

The food awareness organisation surveyed 1,000 participants in the UK in July 2022, revealing that 35% of respondents would probably or definitely eat and buy plant-based/cultivated meat.

Thirty-percent of participants said they are unsure if they would eat or buy hybrid products, which ProVeg International took to mean there is ‘still plenty of room to inform the public’ about these products and their benefits.

Overall, a third of respondents said they would eat hybrid plant-based/cultivated meat one-to-three times a week. The results were ‘fairly similar’ when it comes to consumer acceptance of plant-based products with cultivated fat, noted ProVeg International. “However, respondents were slightly less receptive to this category of food.”

The survey found that consumer expectations in relation to hybrid plant-based/cultivated alternatives are fairly positive, with more than half of respondents expecting hybrids to be good for animals and the environment (57%), nutritious (54%), healthy, and safe (50%).

Generation matters

The survey revealed that age and education appeared to have an impact on perceptions of hybrid products.

Overall, university-educated Millennials and Gen Z are more open to hybrid plant-based/cultivated meat, with 51% of university educated men up to 45 years-old saying they would probably or definitely eat such products. Forty-seven percent of that same demographic would probably or definitely buy hybrid products.

Millennials (38%) and members of Gen Z (37%) are more likely to eat and buy hybrid plant-based/cultivated meat than members of Gen X (32%) and Boomers (29%). Interestingly, overall men (39%) are more likely to eat and buy such products than women (31%).

Alternative proteins expert Dr Chris Bryant said the findings were ‘encouraging’. “Many [consumers] are even anticipating eating such products on at least a weekly basis. As with other similar products, we see the highest appeal to younger and more educated consumers, and overall, we see quite high expectations for the quality of such products.”

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