Consumers’ Feelings About Meat and Meat Alternatives: Can Framing Influence Perception?
In a recent study, researchers used a mixed-methods approach to examine consumer perceptions of meat and meat alternatives and whether framing products as part of a meal, rather than in isolation, influences consumer perceptions (1). The study findings provide insights into how meat alternative products may be positioned to appeal to various consumer profiles and also provide a basis for further research. The following analysis by a dietetic student looks at the key aspects of this study.
FindingsParticipants were invited via social networking websites to take part in two online surveys on consumers’ perceptions of eight food products (red meat, white meat, fish and seafood, insects, legumes, tofu, seitan and lab-grown meat). The first survey asked participants about their attitudes towards these foods, while the second survey (n=285) evaluated consumers’ attitudes towards meats and meat alternatives when presented as either part of a meal or a stand-alone product. The authors concluded that how these foods are presented alters consumer attitudes towards and possibly the adoption of meat alternatives.
What This Means
The authors suggested that consumers can be categorized into three different consumer profiles based on their feelings towards meat and meat alternative products: individuals uninterested and/or disgusted by meat alternatives due to perceived taste preferences (55.8%); individuals open to meat alternatives due to the perceived health benefits of meat alternatives (26.1%); and individuals who prefer meat alternatives and/or feel disgust towards meat consumption due to ethical concerns (18.1%). These profiles may be useful in targeted meat alternative marketing and promotional initiatives as detailed groupings allow the industry to engage consumer preferences through specific messaging and tactics. The results suggest that when a meat alternative is presented as part of a meal instead of a stand-alone product, it can improve the appeal of meat alternatives and elicit more favourable perceptions across profiles.
The findings presented in this study may not be representative or generalizable to diverse populations given that:
- All study participants self-selected in this study on attitudes about meat alternatives were the same nationality (Portuguese).
- The majority were highly educated, female and residing in urban areas.
- A disproportionate number of participants identified as vegetarians or vegans.
- The questions were about attitudes toward foods without participants being presented with any foods.
- The study relied upon participants’ pre-existing knowledge about the food products included in the surveys.
- The methods used to obtain participants (social networking websites and mailing lists) may have influenced the results.
The study was funded through a grant awarded to Catarina Possidonio by Fundaç˜ao para a Ciˆencia e Tecnologia.
Written by Natalie Johnston, BMOS, BSc Candidate, Brescia College University. Reviewed by Lisa Doerr, MSc, RD and Tanis Fenton, PhD, RD, FDC.
- Possidónio C, Prada M, Graça J, Piazza J. Consumer perceptions of conventional and alternative protein sources: a mixed-methods approach with meal and product framing. Appetite. 2021 Jan;156(104860):1-10. doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2020.104860. Abstract available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32916208/