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Swedish consumers want plant-based meat resembling meat

Ansung Kim standing in front of a staircase.

Consumers wishing to reduce their meat consumption appreciate meat substitutes more than those who are positive about meat. However, both groups have a preference for plant-based protein that resembles meat in taste, smell, and texture, according to research at Örebro University.

Meat substitutes, sometimes called vegan and vegetarian meat products, are becoming increasingly common in restaurants and grocery stores. Sausages, steaks, and minced meat are just a few examples of such products, often made from protein-rich sources like soy and peas.

“Plant-based products are vital in that we must reduce meat consumption. And it’s my job to understand why people like certain products but not others,” says Ansung Kim, a doctoral student at the School of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Meal Science at Örebro University.

In the study, part of her doctoral thesis, Ansung Kim examines attitudes towards plant-based meat substitutes among meat and plant eaters (omnivores), flexitarians, fish and seafood eaters (pescatarians), vegetarians, and vegans in Sweden. She developed a value called meat attachment (MA). A low MA value means the person does not find meat as desirable as someone with a higher MA value. The survey included 99 people with low or high MA values.

Odour, taste, and texture that remind them of meat

“On the MA scale, those who eat meat often have a higher value, meaning they like meat more than those with a lower MA value. However, there’s no significant difference in the groups’ ability to distinguish different types of plant-based meat substitutes and their flavours, says Ansung Kim.

The study also revealed that both groups preferred products with meat-like sensory properties. In other words, products where the taste, smell, and texture remind them of meat.

Seven minced products were tested: two soy-based products, two on peas, two on grey peas, and one on oats. The products were stir-fried in oil before being served to the consumers participating in the blind test so that which plants the various minced products were made of was not revealed.

“In both groups, the soy and pea products received higher ratings, and they have a fibre structure that resembles regular minced meat more than the oat and grey pea products,” says Ansung Kim.

The study is part of a project at PAN Sweden, a large research centre. Forma, the Swedish government research council for the Environment, Agricultural Sciences, and Spatial Planning, funds the project. For her research, Ansung Kim was presented the “Student Award” at the EuroSense 2022 conference, organised by the European Sensory Science Society.

Text: Mikael Ã…berg
Photo: Private
Translation: Jerry Gray