Chinese urban perceptions of plant-based meat

Plant-based meat is gaining popularity around the world, with many major city grocery stores and restaurants now offering plant-based meat alternatives. Western society has done a lot of research on this emerging market. But how does China, where overall meat consumption is rising, view plant-based products?

The study’s authors surveyed 579 consumers in four major Chinese cities to learn more about their experiences and preferences for plant-based meat alternatives. The results showed that most Chinese consumers in big cities are open to new proteins. 85% of respondents had eaten plant-based meat before, and 82% had purchased plant-based meat.

Buddhists, wealthier respondents, and those who reduce or eliminate meat intake are the most likely to buy plant-based meat. The survey found that most respondents are reducing their consumption of meat and animal products. Of the participants, just over 1% identified themselves as vegan, nearly 9% were lacto-ovo vegetarian, nearly 10% were pescetarian, and 49% were flexitarian By.

Motivations for buying plant-based meat also vary. Most commonly, people wanted to try novel (58%) or healthy (56%) foods, while environmental concerns were also commonly reported (31%). Interestingly, only 6% of respondents cited animal welfare as a motivation for purchasing plant-based meat. Flexitarians are most likely to buy plant-based meat for health reasons. Vegetarians of all types were most likely to cite religious or environmental concerns as reasons.

Many consumers seem to be aware of the environmental and health impacts of meat. 45% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “Animal-based meat is good for the environment.” At the same time, 49% of people agree or strongly agree with the statement that “the nutrition of plant meat can replace the nutrition of animal meat”.

Most Chinese urban consumers are open to new protein products and are trying to reduce meat consumption. They are aware of the negative health and environmental impacts of meat. Respondents in this study, however, seemed less concerned about animal welfare—they tried plant-based meat because it was novel, or because they thought it was healthy. At the same time, consumers, especially flexitarians, are willing to pay a premium for plant-based meat.

Plant-based meat producers could benefit by using flavor labels to market their products and ensure the ingredients used come from China. While the study is generally good news for the Chinese plant-based meat market, the lack of consumer concern for animal welfare suggests that animal rights advocates have more work to do in this area.