Study: Americans Aren’t Repeat Buyers When It Comes to Fake Meat

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If potato chips earned the slogan “Bet you can’t eat just one,” perhaps fake meat companies should take up the slogan “You’ll only eat this once.”

new consumer study published in Scientific Reports revealed that 40 percent of Americans who purchased a plant-based meat product once never became return buyers. The study, which was conducted from November 2018 to November 2020, analyzed individual-transaction data from 38,966 households.

Most consumers were not even interested in trying fake meat once. More than 80 percent of households never purchased an immitation meat product during the two-year study.

Plant-based meat advocates have long argued that synthetic meat products are the future of food. But data shows 2.79 percent of consumers are exclusively buying fake meat products.

Nearly 88 percent of Americans who purchased a meat analog product also purchased real meat, proving that Americans do not see fake as a replacement. This trend was also reflected in overall spending on fake meat. Over the two years the study was conducted, the average consumer spent $6.78 total on fake meat products. During those same two years, consumers spent an average of $112.74 on real meat products.

This study only analyzed individual transaction data. And accidental purchases are fairly common. One recent poll revealed that 20 percent of Americans have accidentally purchased a fake meat product.

These purchases are common, in part, because of the labeling of fake meat products. Many fake meat products include the words such as  “chicken, nuggets, or wings” despite containing no real chicken. Others use misleading spellings such as “chik’n” which many consumers may miss when rushing through the store.

Unsurprisingly, plant-based meat products are more popular among wealthy consumers. Americans with income above $100,000 were more likely to experiment with fake meat than middle-class families who don’t want to risk the money on a synthetic product that costs more.

There are many reasons one may be curious to try a synthetic meat product once. After all, new plant-based options are popping up in stores across the country.

But after consumers bite into a plant-based chicken nugget that has been compared to a “deep-fried eraser,” their curiosity is quickly erased. The lackluster taste and texture become even less appealing when consumers realize that these “plant-based” chicken substitute foods offer little nutritional value and often carry more calories, sodium, and preservatives than the real thing.