Customer Adoption Challenges

What customer adoption challenges do innovators face when placing alternative meat products in the market?

@sandrodemaio, @benhammersley, @Thunksalot, you might be able to help us answer this question. What do you think are the biggest challenges?

@CKent, you may also be interested in this issue, given your experience in global consumer insights.

Anecdotally, the tensions don’t necessarily seem to be in the minds of the consumers - the reaction to, say, the BK Impossible Whopper, or the Beyond Meat products in the supermarkets, or the Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll (which has to be made of purest deliciousonium) seem to have been overwhelmingly keen, to the point of bringing in new customers to previously avoided stores or restaurants. For me, the challenges are

  • Shelving - where does it go in the store? Next to the meat, or in a wholly separate vegetarian ghetto?
  • Entering markets where Meat is a cultural marker of other qualities. Manliness, or a sign of wealth or status, and so on.
  • These are all contextual. I’ve seen every approach, even with the same products, across the US. Beyond Meat sits in the (relatively small) meat freezer in Venice, California; it is nowhere to be seen in the (proportionally half the store) meat kingdom in a supermarket outside of San Antonio, Texas. So I suspect that the challenge more a set of localized ones, rather than two or three grand issues. They might just feel like that, because no one can imagine that other people actaully really do eat differently, or conceive the semantic values of their menu choices differently.

    Either way, no one should ever lie, and try to pass off something as animal-based when it isn’t. For the market, that would be as equally as bad as the opposite.

    tl;dr: It depends.

    @J_D, you might have insight here as well. How does product placement and packaging affect whether or not people buy alternative meat products?

    @benhammersley thank you for your insight regarding customer adoption challenges. You bring up interesting points - some of which have been echoed by other experts during interviews.

    You mentioned meat as a cultural marker, and you also cited the relevance of attending to local challenges. As we consider the design, what recommendations do you have for our team in terms of adopting a culturally sensitive or “versatile” approach?

    Your question around shelving is interesting. To prove a bit further: what is the optimal shelf life for an alternative meat product, given global differences in distribution process?

    My colleague @cnatan may have additional questions for you on this matter.

    Why are we working so hard to make an imitation product. Where is the creativity to make exciting and new plant based products that are new and different rather than focus on meat products which are relatively complex and really not so easy to fully duplicate enough to fool people. (I’ve tried the best so far and have been monumentally disappointed – they are not hamburgers. However, we actually use a number of the more “interesting” burgers and some of them are okay and don’t try to be something they are not.

    I can speak more directly to consumer acceptance here, which links to the above question of challenges for placing meat alternatives in the market. As noted by Kris in an earlier comment, taste, price and convenience are some of the biggest barriers to consumer acceptance of all meat alternatives. But I think there are additional concerns for each cultured and plant-based meat (which are different from each other).

    Cultured meat:
    I wrote a piece about barriers to cultured meat in this conversation piece (Cultured meat seems gross? It's much better than animal agriculture) and have expanded on this a little in my research since. In brief, the belief that cultured meat is unnatural or disgusting is a major barrier, which seems to be related to conservatism and distrust in science (paper here: Testing potential psychological predictors of attitudes towards cultured meat - ScienceDirect). It also seems to be underpinned by the belief that natural things are better. There is relevant research drawing links between attitudes toward GM food and cultured meat, raising the concern that cultured meat could end up like GM food if the public-face isn’t well handled (Sentience Institute | What can the adoption of GM foods teach us about the adoption of other food technologies?).

    Other concerns seem to be health and safety, and a concern for the impact on farmers and the farming community. I don’t have data to support this yet, but I also predict that concerns with health and safety link to the public not believing the claims made about cultured meat (e.g. that it’s exactly the same as regular meat). I should have data on whether this is accurate in the coming months.

    I think terminology is also an important consideration for acceptance. There are a number of studies on this (e.g. Cultured, clean, and cell-based are all generally accepted. But GFI has recently started promoting the term “cultivated” meat ( It’s generally accepted that lab-grown, in vitro or artificial are always seen negatively.

    Plant-based meat:
    I am less familiar with acceptance of plant-based meat. I know GFI will soon be releasing a number of white papers summarising relevant literature, which would be a good resource. From my reading, nutritional concerns (in addition to price, taste and convenience) seems to the biggest barrier.

    @mattiwilks thank you for your sharing your thoughts about customer adoption through the lens of consumer acceptance.

    What impact does social sharing have on consumer adoption of meat alternatives, and how might product placement play into this? For instance, today McDonalds announced its offering of the Beyond Meat P.L.T. (plant, lettuce, and tomato) in Canada. Read more here:

    How might similar market entry approaches improve customer acceptance of alternative meat products?

    What recommendations do you have for our team in terms of adopting a culturally sensitive or “versatile” approach?


    Exciting to hear about McDonalds!

    I am not entirely sure what you mean by social sharing? Do you mean social media? Or more generally conceptualising food as a social activity?

    In terms of versatility, one thing that does come to mind is the need to move away from the burger model. This seems to be the prototype being adopted in most places (and given the US diet that is unsurprising). But most people/most cultures don’t eat burgers frequently and I think a push for non-Western meat alternatives is really important, especially given growing meat consumption in China and India.

    Please let me know if I haven’t answered what you were asking!

    One of the challenges for customers may be change. Making a decision to purchase a plant based protein as opposed to the their traditional or regular purchases. The price point is an issue when addressing consumers; How will the consumer justify the price of a designer lab meat to that of a factory-farmed protein?