A study by Australia’s Griffith University has found that 32.2% of respondents have reduced their meat consumption over the past year.
Health was the most commonly cited reason, amid rising concerns about the link between animal products and chronic disease. This was followed by environmental and animal welfare issues. However, a small percentage of respondents (3.3%) had actually increased their meat consumption.
Most participants who had cut down on meat said they aimed to follow a plant-forward diet, but a minority (14.3%) said they were just trying new products and did not necessarily plan on a long-term diet change. Overall, findings indicated widespread interest in and openness to plant-based foods.
Some respondents reported barriers to eating a plant-based diet, such as other household members not wanting to cut down on meat, lack of awareness of how to prepare plant-based meals, and high cost. When eating out, some participants said it was difficult to find suitable options.
Taste drives repeat purchases
Despite media reports that meat alternatives are in decline, almost half (45.6%) of respondents said they eat plant-based foods that mimic animal products some of the time, though 32.8% preferred to stick to traditional plant foods. Legumes were the most popular type of plant protein, followed by tofu, tempeh, seitan, and veggie patties.
The two predominant factors influencing participants to try new plant-based foods were availability and cost. However, the main drivers of repeat purchases were taste and nutritional value. The most common method used to discover new plant-based products was the internet, which was used by the majority of participants; 58.6% also discovered new foods by visiting stores and restaurants.
The study follows a report earlier this year which found that the Australian alt protein industry had grown tenfold over the past few years. However, the sector faces challenges in the form of infrastructure and supply bottlenecks, alongside attempts to restrict the labelling of meat alternatives.
“Agriculture Victoria recognises the growth potential of alternative proteins and other emerging sectors and believes these industries offer significant opportunities to create jobs, broaden income streams and target new markets and consumers,” said Sarah-Jane McCormack, executive director at Agriculture Victoria Policy and Programs.