PROFETAS Protein Foods, Environment, Technology and Society

The environment
The technology
The consumer
Economy & policy
Current issues

The consumer

Three projects focus on the acceptance of Novel Protein Foods by the consumer:

Combining long-term and short-term influences on food choice: The case of meat
This project examines long-term and short-term influences on food choice with a particular reference to the question how current food choices in north-western Europe are shaped by long-term changes in attitude towards the animal origin of meat. The analysis aims to specify whether these changes may become substantial enough to get an impact on the consumption of meat and to contribute to a food system that is more sustainable. Knowledge from a wide range of disciplines (i.e. psychology, sociology, anthropology, history) is used to present a cascade-like framework that sorts insights on influences on behaviour into a logical order. 
The framework combines perceptual and rational processes internal to the person with social, organizational, and distal processes (i.e. long-term causes). The framework shows that the various influences on behaviour have their own pace and that these differences in pace are particularly relevant for the proper diagnosis of present influences and for the design of an intervention. The framework also makes clear that the effectiveness of interventions will increase if all the influences on a particular behaviour point in the same direction. The main argument is that gaining more insight into socio-cultural changes and their linkages with food choice criteria might contribute to the pursuit of a system that is more sustainable.
For more information please contact Joop de Boer 

Substitution of meat by NPFs: investigating factors in consumer choice
In this projects the factors are studied that can convince consumers to substitute meat with NPFs from a marketing perspective. Consumption of Novel Protein Foods instead of meat would be beneficial to the environment. This will only occur if consumers accept these products. Using several studies, we explored different factors in acceptance of current meat substitutes.
Consumer-related factors
A consumer survey was performed in the U.K. (N=235, mature meat substitute market) and in the Netherlands (N=318, developing market). Respondents were classified into three categories with respect to usage of meat substitutes: non users, light/medium users and heavy users. Non users had a higher tendency to avoid new foods (e.g. more food neophobic) than light/medium users. Heavy users paid more attention to "ecological welfare", "political values", and "natural content" in their daily choice for foods. Meat substitutes were scored negatively for "familiarity" and "luxury" aspects by non users and light/medium users, but were perceived as "ethical" and better for "weight control". Non users and light/medium users preferred a product that is similar to meat in terms of texture, taste, smell and appearance!
Product-related factors
Two important factors are the sensory perception of foods (relating to sensory properties) and the physiological effects of foods (relating to satiating properties). A pilot study (N=22) was performed to investigate the evaluation of 6 meat substitutes and a meat product after actual tasting. The meat substitute product with the highest mean scores for overall similarity to meat was also the most preferred meat substitute product. In another consumption experiment (N=28) investigating the satiating properties of 4 meat substitute and 2 meat products, it was apparent that meat substitutes with higher protein levels (63g/kJ) where more satiating. These studies suggest that an interest in ethical aspects, not health, explains current acceptance of meat substitutes. When targeting on non users or light/medium users, more attention should be given to luxury aspects, satiating properties and meat-like sensory properties. Furthermore, the tendency to choose familiar foods should also be considered.
For more information please contact Annet Hoek

Sensory characteristics to entice consumers to eat NPFs
This project aims to answer the question what the sensory characteristics are that consumers wish for in an NPF. Sensory properties are an important factor for the acceptance of foods. It is therefore of crucial importance to reveal consumers' sensory expectations and preferences in the early stages of product development. In order to make new meat substitute that consumers will indeed use instead of meat, we need more information about what these products should look and taste like. This project includes several studies about consumers' opinions, expectations, and acceptance of meat substitutes and sensory description of these products. We chose to focus on "meat substitute-ingredients" (for example to replace minced meat or pieces of chicken). The acceptance of meat substitute ingredients is influenced by the context of the dish in which they are eaten. If the use of an ingredient is appropriate in a dish, it is probably better accepted by consumers than an "inappropriate" combination. A survey was carried out to reveal in what dishes consumers find the use of meat substitutes appropriate and what sensory properties are wanted for meat substitutes. The questionnaire consisted of appropriateness and liking questions accompanied by photographs of different dishes with meat substitutes. 251 Dutch consumers completed the questionnaire. One of the most striking results was that most consumers wanted "traditional" combinations of meat substitutes and dishes (for example "minced meat substitutes" with spaghetti and tomato sauce or "pieces" with rice and curry sauce). Consumers indicated also that a "meat-like flavour" and a brown colour were positive product properties for meat substitutes. The second study describes the preliminary results of a consumer study in which consumers tasted meat substitutes in a dish, and rated their liking and the appropriateness of the use of meat substitutes in different dishes. The last study is the description of 12 meat substitutes by a trained sensory panel with Quantitative Descriptive Analysis. These data suggest that many consumers like meat substitutes that resemble meat, which implies a challenge for product developers!
For more information please contact Hanneke Elzerman

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