Consumers are sceptical about cultured meat. They have doubts about the sustainability claims and are not sure how to place the product, according to research by the Marketing and Consumer Behaviour chair group.
The first commercially manufactured cultured meat recently arrived in the Netherlands. A small group of pioneers would have been happy to try out the sausage but the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority put a stop to that. The EU’s Novel Food Directive says that all food products that were not in common use in Europe in 1998 must first undergo extensive food safety tests.
WUR researcher Arnout Fischer of the Marketing and Consumer Behaviour group is not surprised. ‘If the kiwi were to be launched now, that would also be tricky. This is an issue for the consumption of insects and duckweed too.’
‘Dry and tough’
But a study by Fischer’s group shows that the cultured meat sector may have more of a problem with resistance among consumers. ‘Consumers have difficulty placing cultured meat. To some extent they see it as a meat substitute, so cultured meat is often associated with “dry and tough”. We also saw that meat eaters tend to be relatively traditional and less inclined to try something new. Consumers also have doubts about the sustainability of cultured meat. The food industry has made big claims in the past that later turned out to not so impressive.’’
Another problem for cultured meat is that consumers are increasingly accustomed to not eating meat at all. ‘It’s now much more common to eat meat substitutes that don’t look remotely like meat,’ he says. The technology behind cultured meat may have improved fast and the price dropped ‘but it is still too expensive, and the technology behind traditional meat substitutes has advanced even faster,’ says Fischer. ‘So the niche for cultured meat is becoming ever smaller.’