In Consumer Values, CPG Brands, Diet Trends, Environmental Positioning, Food Tribes, Healing Diets, Innovation Trends, Meatless Burgers, NEXT Concept Lab, Plant-based, Quick Bites

Mooove over, plant-based meat

We’ve written about the meat-alternatives trend a few times recently, not least because 14% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture and changing consumer habits around meat have an enormous opportunity to impact these emissions. Up until now, our alt-meat findings have been focused primarily on plant-based meat alternatives, as they have risen in both popularity and palatability.

But cell-based meat may be poised to be the next disruptor in this already meaty category. However, cell-based, or cultured meat faces at least two hurdles before we’ll see it on store shelves. The first, written about in a Slate article last month, is that, while the USDA and FDA will cooperate to jointly regulate cultured meat production, they are moving too slowly. “Part of the problem is bureaucratic slowness as the government collects and analyzes data that companies are providing around the quality and safety of their production processes.” In light of the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging meatpacking plants, the article also questions, “wouldn’t it be advantageous for the U.S. government to shift some of its focus from reopening meatpacking plants to finishing laying out the regulatory framework for cultured meat?”

It may also be worth wondering aloud, as a recent CNN opinion piece did, if the USDA is, “an agency that must support the food industry, which today means supporting factory farms” and could find itself in a conflicted position when it comes to also clearing the path for a competitor to those factory farms and the conventional meat industry in general.

Even if a regulatory pathway is cleared for cell-based meat, consumer interest is the other hurdle these products will have to face. Unsurprisingly, many people are skeptical about the idea of cell-based meat. Who wouldn’t be? Plus, we haven’t even had the chance to taste it yet, much less poke a fork at it. But even though so much is unknown, a perhaps impressive 8% of U.S. consumers surveyed in NEXT’s Concept Lab told us they would purchase 3-D printed meat, which is just one way to characterize one kind of cultured meat.

For most Concept Lab tests, 8% wouldn’t look terribly promising, but for a product so new, it might be. Plus, it scored 12% on purchase intent among our most progressive consumer segment, Chief Health Officers, a group that makes up about 20% of the U.S. shopping population.

Below is a visualization of how these purchase intent scores compare to the more familiar conventionally raised ground beef and plant-based burgers.

While ground beef is still more popular than both meatless options tested in our Concept Lab, it is also the most familiar to consumers. As the meatless market continues to grow, NEXT will continue to survey consumers to understand how they will spend their meat and meatless dollars.

Is your company ready for meatless Mondays? Contact NEXT to evaluate purchase intent and mainstream success of your new product concept, before you go to market.

Eager for more insights? Don’t miss this week’s Natural Products Industry Health Monitor: How sales are unfolding this year.