October 17, 2023, by pczmj

“I guess it’s quite trendy”: New research explores young meat-eaters’ sustainable food consumption habits.

This post is by Dr Qian Yang, Assistant Professor in Sensory and Consumer Science and Hannah Ford, PhD student in Sensory and Consumer Science.

Consumers are influential in determining the success of new products and future food trends. As the market for sustainable food continues to expand, there is a need to understand how consumers’ consumption habits and perceptions are changing. Are consumers consciously moving away from animal derived products? How will protein alternatives support dietary transitions? Young adults’ food choices are of particular interest, as they arguably shape the future of food.

We recently  published a new study aimed to shed light on these topics by reviewing young meat-eaters current consumption (i.e., meat reduction, adoption of plant-based meat/seafood) as well as perceptions towards novel future protein alternatives (i.e., cell-based meat/seafood and precision fermented dairy).

Through a series of focus groups, this study found a general trend towards meat reduction, an awareness of the link between food and climate change and an optimistic view on new food technologies playing a supportive role in future protein transitions. New-found self-sufficiency gained from moving away from home, alongside limited food budgets and the influence of others created changes in consumption, which signifies the importance of this transitional life stage on the formation of new behaviours. However, barriers identified a lack of information on quantifying the environmental impact of food, which led to uncertainty around how best to make sustainable food choices. This knowledge gap was especially apparent for dairy and seafood compared to meat. To some extent this was reflected in the acceptance of plant-based products, in which consumers had increased consumption of plant-based meat but had little experience or interest in trying plant-based seafood.

Some key enablers and barriers towards consumer acceptance for the different alternatives were highlighted:

  • Enablers for plant-based meat/ seafood included convenience, positive sensory experiences and the influence of others, whilst barriers were related to negative health connotations and over-processing.
  • Enablers for cell-based meat/ seafood and precision fermented dairy included animal welfare, curiosity and optimised nutrition, whilst barriers related to wider consumer acceptance, affordability and unnaturalness.

This research suggests opportunities for intervention strategies aiming to encourage more sustainable food consumption habits amongst young meat-eaters. Notably, public awareness around the environmental impact of food should be emphasised.

To find out more, the paper can be accessed here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019566632302487X

Ford, H., Gould, J., Danner, L., Bastian, S.E.P., & Yang, Q. (2023). “I guess it’s quite trendy”: A qualitative insight into young meat-eaters’ sustainable food consumption habits and perceptions towards current and future protein alternatives. Appetite. 190, 107025. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2023.107025

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