7 in 10 US consumers would swap cell-based chicken for traditional meat

Source: fooddive.com

Dive Brief:

  • Nearly seven in 10 U.S. consumers would be willing to substitute cell-based chicken for the animal-based meat, according to a survey of 2,522 consumers done by a leading management consulting firm on behalf of Eat Just. After being shown pictures of the cultured chicken product and reading a description on how it was made, 72% said they would consider purchasing it.
  • Of the consumers who were willing to buy cell-based chicken and beef, the largest group — 21% for each — said their top reason for purchasing it would be because it’s made without killing animals. The next highest response — 19% of chicken buyers and 17% of beef buyers — said it was because it was a healthy product. Sustainability was further down the list, with 12% of chicken buyers and 11% of beef buyers giving that as their top reason.
  • Cell-based meat of any sort is currently not available anywhere in the United States, so these responses are largely theoretical. Eat Just, which has received regulatory approval to sell cell-based chicken in Singapore, is the world’s only company currently selling cell-based meat. However, several companies are creating cell-based meat and waiting for regulatory guidelines and approval in the U.S., which those in the industry say could happen late this year.

Dive Insight:

In the last several years, several studies have been conducted to see if consumers would be willing to try cell-based meat. As time has gone on, consumer interest in trying products has gone up.

A 2018 study by Kadence International asked consumers if they were interested in buying “clean meat” — terminology for cell-based meat that was previously used but has gone out of favorfound just 27% would. Later that year, an online survey found 40% of U.S. residents would be happy to eat cultured meat. And a 2019 study in Frontiers in Nutrition reported 65% of Americans would be willing to try cultured meat, with half willing to buy it regularly.

While this survey that has the most favorable results was done on behalf of a company making cell-based meat products, Eat Just says they were not involved with how the survey respondents were selected — something completely done by the outside firm. Compared to the previous studies that weren’t affiliated with the industry, this survey had a much larger sample size and a diverse population of respondents. Responses were demographically balanced, and respondents were people with incomes of $50,000 or more who had grocery shopped in the last month, Eat Just said.

What these responses indicate is that as the cultured meat industry continues to develop, consumers are becoming more comfortable with the idea of cell-based meat. Since the 2018 study, companies dedicated to creating meat without killing animals have formed across the globe and products are getting closer to being on the market — or in the case of Eat Just’s Good Meat brand, getting on the market. The question asking consumers why they would purchase a cell-based product shows that not only do they have a clear understanding of what cell-based meat is, but the fact that it does not come directly from an animal is a key selling point.

For cell-based meat providers, this means there is a large group of consumers who may not need to be convinced to try their products. While many providers have pushed the sustainability aspect of the cell-based meat industry, it doesn’t seem to be the factor that would convince consumers.

These results may mean meat companies have something to worry about. Meat sales were booming in 2020, with 98.4% of all U.S. households purchasing it through the year and 94% of consumers saying it provides high-quality protein, according to a study from the Food Industry Association (FMI) and the North American Meat Institute. But if these same consumers recognize and accept cell-based meat as a substitute for animal-derived meat, they may transfer some of those purchases to that segment. Eat Just’s study found that 70% of U.S. consumers would be willing to pay 25% more for cell-based chicken, but price doesn’t matter much — 72% of consumers are willing to pay the same amount and just 1% more would only buy it if it cost less.