Studies & Numbers

Study Finds Consumers Less Likely to Buy Fermented Plant-Based Foods When CHEAPER Than Animal Counterparts

A study conducted by the EU-funded HealthFerm project has come to a surprising conclusion — making fermented plant-based foods cheaper than animal products could actually make consumers less likely to buy them.

Study participants preferred fermented meat and dairy alternatives to be priced at parity with their animal-based counterparts, likely due to the perception that cheaper products are of lower quality.

For example, 52.8% of respondents said they would buy a fermented milk alternative that was priced the same as dairy milk, but only 46.3% would buy a product that was cheaper than dairy. Just 9.6% would be willing to pay more for a plant-based alternative.

The same pattern was observed for meat alternatives, though there was only a 1.2% difference in willingness to purchase between products that were cheaper than meat and those priced at parity.

Kynda debuts a new mycelium ingredient in vegan burgers crafted by The Ranging Pig Co.
© Image courtesy of Kynda

Barriers and opportunities

The study also found that consumers trust traditional fermentation more than precision or biomass fermentation, though trust for all three processes is relatively high. There is considerable variation across Europe, with countries where fermentation is traditionally practiced — such as Finland, Italy, and Romania — having the highest levels of trust.

Consumers expressed some barriers to consuming fermented plant-based foods, including uncertainty about their health and sustainability benefits. Clean labels and organic certifications were seen as important; many respondents also thought that plant-based foods would be less convenient and satisfying than animal products.

However, 11% said they already consume plant-based fermented yogurt at least four times per week, while 10% drink plant-based milk at least once a day. Furthermore, 27% of omnivores said they eat meat less than three times a month, indicating a growing market opportunity for alternative proteins.

Nosh.bio fermented steak
Image courtesy of Nosh.bio

“Significant market potential”

The study clearly demonstrates the importance of achieving price parity for fermented plant-based products. Currently, fermented foods are often more expensive than animal products, seriously limiting their sales potential. A report published by Synonym Biotechnologies last November found that a combination of scaling and technology interventions could make price parity possible.

However, the HealthFerm findings are also interesting in light of the fact that some alternative protein companies have announced their intention to underprice animal-based foods. The study results may indicate that this is not the optimal strategy.

“This pioneering study provides valuable guidance for developing innovative fermentations that align with sensory expectations. Furthermore, the report highlights the significant market potential for fermented plant-based foods,” said HealthFerm Project Coordinator Professor Christophe Courtin.

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