Do ‘blended’ meat products have a future?

Date : 23 April 2021

Natasha Maynard

Nutrition & Scientific Affairs Manager

With nearly two-thirds of people (63%) citing health as their primary driver for healthy sustainable eating, compared to just 13% who are motivated by the environment1, I explore the future opportunities for ‘blended’ meat products plus the tactics that can be used to help normalise change.

Blended meat products, which are part meat, part vegetables, often deliver on both health and sustainability, so it’s fair to question why early launches haven’t always proved a hit with consumers and remain relatively niche. But as attention turns to climate change ahead of the UK hosting COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference later this year, will we see shoppers placing greater focus on sustainability and can blended products deliver on both taste and sustainability?

Consumers are open to a range of initiatives that make it easier to change eating habits

There is a big opportunity for businesses to help shift consumer behaviour towards healthier and more sustainable diets and never has there been a stronger impetus for change.

According to our Appetite for Change research, over half (57%)1 of consumers are already changing their diets or are considering making changes to be healthier and more sustainable. And consumers often quote reducing meat consumption as an approach to achieving a healthier and more sustainable diet.

Image: In the absence of a consistent definition for healthy and sustainable diets, the Eatwell Guide (above) provides an appropriate direction of travel, delivering positive health and environmental outcomes compared with current UK diets (Image source: GOV.UK).

Consumers that want help to improve their diets are open to a range of initiatives that make it easier to change eating habits. When presented with various concepts to promote healthy and sustainable diets, the majority told us they would be open to things like ‘Meat Free Monday’ (65%), blended meat products (60%), meat-free in the meat aisle (57%) and meat alternatives (56%)2.

Image: Roasted Beef & Veg Meatballs from M&S (Image source: Ocado.com)

Our research shows that blended meat products were more appealing to those who don’t eat meat every day. These products reduce the sense of loss to consumers making changes as they are still getting the goodness and taste of meat, but with some additional benefits. These products provide familiarity and are viewed as a low-risk option for families.

With new targets and increasing pressure on food businesses to make products healthier, fruit and vegetables can be used as a tasty and often more nutritious alternative to other ingredients.

Our ShopperVista3 research reveals that nearly nine in 10 shoppers (86%) are actively trying to improve their diet in some way, with eating more fruit and vegetables cited as the top aspiration. Shoppers are increasingly open to reformulation too - more than three quarters (79%) say they are happy for food companies to make products healthier provided they’re still as tasty.

Most people in the UK eat meat and there are many barriers to change

Perceived higher cost remains the main barrier to healthy and sustainable diets, with our Appetite for Change research revealing that 38% of consumers think it is more expensive1. Other barriers include people liking the taste of their current food (24%), being creatures of habit (23%) and a lack of familiarity (17%)1.

Although many consumers associate reducing meat consumption with healthy and sustainable diets, the reality is that most people in the UK (85%) eat meat to serve a variety of needs; with around one in five (21%) eating meat every day2.

There are many reasons people choose to eat meat and therefore the notion of eating less of it can feel like a significant loss. For example, some consumers see meat as a core element of their daily diet providing an important part of a balanced diet that includes protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables. Meat also meets some consumers emotional needs, providing pleasure and enjoyment as well as offering ease and versatility to the familiarity of traditional meals.

Perceived higher cost remains the main barrier to healthy and sustainable eating habits. This is the case across consumers of all ages and cost is a significantly stronger barrier for those who perceive themselves to have less healthy diets (48%)2. Furthermore, through our research we have found that people perceive the cost of blended meat to be as much, if not higher than meat presenting a significant barrier to trial.

Carefully considered tactics can be used to help normalise change

Through our Appetite for Change research, we worked with behaviour science experts to identify practical actions that food businesses can apply to help shift consumer behaviour towards healthier and more sustainable diets.

This research reveals that consumers fall into three mindsets; those who are making changes to be healthy and more sustainable, those who are considering it, and those who see no reason to change.

We identified practical steps, targeted for each mindset, that we can take to shift consumer behaviours towards healthy and sustainable diets. The five approaches include signposting, placement, product, influence and incentivisation.

Image: Our Appetite for Change research identified a series of practical actions to help drive behaviour change and encourage consumers to eat more fruit and vegetables.

Carefully considered tactics, such as marketing, product placement and incentives, in store and online, can be used to help normalise change and get people to consider blended products at a time when they may not have otherwise.

If we take placement, for example, that involves giving greater in store prominence to certain products to help normalise the change in behaviour.

Placing plant-based products with their animal-based equivalents, would normalise their place in the diet. This increases accessibility and avoids a sense of ‘it’s not for me’. Prime positioning would encourage more browsing for those who do not typically eat this type of food and allow for comparison, for example placing plant-based options side-by-side with meat products provides proximity and ease. Online suggestions can also play a key role for many who are looking to make changes to their diet.

References

1 Appetite for Change (COVID-19 update - September 2020)
2 Appetite for Change (Original research – March 2020)
3 IGD ShopperVista (Base: 1,000+ ALL shoppers, Oct ’20)

 

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