LONDON — Sixty percent of United Kingdom consumers in a Food Standards Agency survey said they were willing to try plant-based protein products. The same could not be said for lab-grown meat (34%) or edible insects (26%) with many respondents citing food safety concerns.
“We recognize the potential of alternative proteins for improving dietary health and as part of a sustainable food system,” said Robin May, PhD, chief scientific adviser of the FSA. “This important survey highlights that, while many consumers are considering trying alternative proteins, they will quite rightly only do so if they are confident that these products are safe and properly regulated.
“Consequently, we are working closely with businesses and trade bodies to ensure they make effective use of the FSA’s existing regulatory framework so that consumers can benefit from innovative food products whilst still having full confidence in their safety.”
The survey from the London-based FSA contacted 1,930 consumers of the ages 16-75 living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland between Dec. 9-11. Seventy-seven percent said they perceived plant-based proteins as being safe to eat while 4% said they were unsafe. The percentages for edible insects were 50% safe to eat and 20% unsafe, and for lab-grown meat they were 30% safe to eat and 29% unsafe.
Among those unwilling to try lab-grown meat, 49% said they found it off-putting, 37% said they did not see a reason to eat lab-grown meat, and 33% said they like to eat traditional meats. Men, at 43%, were more likely than women, at 26%, to be willing to try lab-grown meat. Younger consumers were more willing, too, with 46% of those aged 25-34 saying they would, which compared to 27% of those aged 55-75. The most common reason given for trying lab-grown meat was environmental and sustainability concerns at 40%.
Among those unwilling to try edible insects, 64% said they found it off-putting, 40% said they did not see a reason to eat edible insects, and 34% said they did not think it would taste good. Men, at 34%, were more likely than women, at 19%, to be willing to try edible insects. While 33% of those aged 25-34 said they would be willing, 22% of those 55-75 said they would be willing. The most common reason for trying edible insects was environmental and sustainability concerns at 31%.
Consumers were more likely to accept edible insects grounded into food such as bread, burgers and falafel balls for added protein as 37% said they would try the food. Nearly a third (32%) said they were willing to try insects in the form of a meal or protein replacement, 30% said they would try edible insects made into sweets or jellies, and 26% said they would try edible insects made into beverages.
Among those who said they were willing to try plant-based proteins, 44% said because they thought it was safe to eat, 39% said for health reasons, and 36% said for environmental or sustainability reasons. Among those not willing to try plant-based proteins, 36% said they preferred traditional meats, 32% said they did not see a need to eat plant-based proteins, and 30% said they did not think the food would taste good.