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Consumer acceptance of cultivated meat remains divided, LinkedIn poll reveals

Picture of by Dr. Raphaëlle O'Connor

by Dr. Raphaëlle O'Connor

Raphaelle has over 25 years’ experience in the ideation,
development, and commercialisation of food chemistry,
food science, food technology, and nutrition.

Rare meat on a fork with pink petri dishes in the background

In a recent inewtrition LinkedIn poll, participants were asked to share their opinions on cultivated, or lab-grown, meat. The results of the poll, which garnered 23 votes, provide a glimpse into the diverse range of sentiments surrounding this emerging food technology.

According to the poll, 35% of respondents expressed excitement about cultivated meat, seeing it as a promising alternative to traditional livestock farming. Another 9% reported being curious, indicating a willingness to explore this novel food source. However, a significant portion of respondents remained sceptical, with 22% expressing reservations about cultivated meat. In line with the sceptics, another 35% of voters remained unconvinced about the merits of lab-grown meat, suggesting a degree of resistance to its adoption.

Perceived consumer barriers

These poll results align with a recently published report in MDPI, which delves into the perceived barriers to consumer acceptance of cultivated meat. The report highlights several factors that influence consumers’ attitudes towards this innovative food source.

One of the primary concerns voiced by consumers is the issue of naturalness. The study found that the perception of low naturalness in cultivated meat often triggers emotional objections related to disgust, health, and safety concerns. However, it is noteworthy that despite being considered less natural than insect protein, cultivated meat was still favoured over insects. This suggests that while naturalness is a factor, it does not single-handedly determine consumer acceptance.

Psychographic factors, such as sensitivity to food hygiene, neophobia (fear of new foods), and political conservative ideology, were identified as exceptions that tend to drive rejection of cultivated meat. Interestingly, the study found that low naturalness might be of greater concern to Europeans compared to Americans, highlighting potential cultural differences in consumer attitudes.

Safety and health concerns also play a significant role in shaping consumer acceptance. Consumers express anxiety regarding the long-term effects of consuming cultivated meat and call for transparent access to research and data on its safety and health benefits. To gain consumer confidence, it will be imperative for cultivated meat producers to demonstrate that their products are not only safe but also nutritionally comparable to conventional meat. Building consumer confidence through scientific engagement and the dissemination of information is crucial for fostering trust.

Nutritional concerns emerged as another barrier to acceptance, with some consumers perceiving cultivated meat as nutritionally inferior to conventional meat. Varying perceptions of healthiness among individuals contribute to this viewpoint, strengthening the importance of effectively communicating the nutritional benefits of cultivated meat.

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Consumer trust in the product, including trust in food companies and labelling strategies, was identified as a crucial factor. Distrust was found to be more prevalent in rural communities, where a personal connection to traditional farming practices may exist. Establishing regulatory bodies and addressing conspiratorial ideas can help alleviate distrust.

Neophobia, fear of the unknown, was highlighted as a key predictor of rejection in multiple regions. The unfamiliarity of cultivated meat, along with perceptions of low naturalness, may trigger emotional responses of disgust. However, these responses are considered independent of rational evaluations and could potentially diminish as familiarity increases over time.

Economic concerns also influence consumer acceptance. Anxiety surrounding the economic impact on conventional farming communities and the affordability of cultivated meat for higher-income households are factors that need to be addressed. Identifying sustainable solutions and showcasing the potential opportunities for agricultural stakeholders may alleviate economic anxieties.

What’s in a name?

To promote consumer acceptance, marketing strategies play a pivotal role. Nomenclature and terminology should be chosen carefully, as certain terms, such as “clean meat,” have shown to elicit higher acceptance rates compared to others. Additionally, providing additional information about personal benefits and framing cultivated meat in a manner similar to conventional products can positively impact consumer attitudes.

According to research conducted by Embold Research and commissioned by the Good Food Institute, the term “cultivated meat” has been validated as the preferred name for meat produced from animal cells. The research, which involved an online survey of 1,018 adults representative of U.S. national demographics, found that “cultivated meat” is both accurate and descriptive. It is also the most appealing term among consumers, with significantly more respondents expressing a personal preference for it over “cell-cultured meat.” Furthermore, 75% of companies in the industry currently use the term “cultivated meat.” While various terms have been used to describe this process, the research suggests that “cultivated meat” is the most widely accepted and suitable name for this emerging industry, although the final decision may ultimately be influenced by regulators and industry consensus.

What’s next for the industry?

McKinsey & Company researchers have predicted that cultivated meat is on track to become mainstream in the coming years. According to the article published in 2021, the market for lab-grown meat could reach an impressive $25 billion by the year 2030, contingent upon the aforementioned consumer acceptance factors. This projection underscores the growing recognition among industry experts that cultivated meat has the potential to revolutionise the food industry and meet the increasing demand for sustainable and ethical protein sources. Despite consumer sentiment, as technological advancements continue to enhance production processes, the inevitability of cultivated meat becoming a significant player in the global market becomes more apparent.

In conclusion, the results of the LinkedIn poll and recent studies demonstrate a range of consumer attitudes toward cultivated meat. While excitement and curiosity exist, scepticism and resistance also persist. Overcoming perceived barriers, such as addressing concerns related to naturalness, safety, nutrition, trust, and neophobia, will be crucial for fostering wider acceptance of cultivated meat. Through effective marketing strategies and transparent communication, the potential benefits of cultivated meat can be conveyed to consumers, paving the way for a more sustainable and innovative future of food.

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