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Who’s Putting the “Cult” in Cultured Meat?

Fake meat, cultured meat, lab-grown meat, clean meat, alternative protein. No matter what you call it interest is growing in this product, which involves taking cells from animals or plants and turning them into tissue to make burgers, nuggets and more.

So, who’s putting the “cult” in cultured meat? While “cult” may be a bit dramatic, new Illuminate™ digital research from The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) shows that a small, influential and well-defined group of consumers is taking a keen interest in meat substitutes as companies carefully dip their toes in the water of this niche market.

Our ability through Illuminate to peer into the minds of millions of meat-alternative fans in real time provides a roadmap to understand where to find them and how to meaningfully engage.

Following the Digital Breadcrumbs

CFI’s analysis reveals strong emotional and social motivations for those who desire cultured meat, which have little to do with the food itself.

They want to be responsible citizens and want to make a meaningful difference in society. They believe meat substitutes help them achieve a higher purpose.

The core market for meat alternatives is well-educated white women, ages 25-44, with middle and upper-middle socioeconomic status, who are either single or in a relationship without children. This market is still in the very early stages of development with a core of 15-million consumers and a potential market of 156-million.

Consumers are motivated to explore meat alternatives because they want to have control over what they eat. The top fear of consumers interested in meat alternatives is that they are not making a real difference.

They worry that despite their best efforts to live by their values (social and environmental responsibility), they are not having any positive effect on the world around them. This, they believe, is likely because the “system” is rife with corruption and collusion.

People exploring meat substitutes hold large corporations in contempt, believing they care only about profits.

Those who are opting for meat alternatives want to prove they have a higher set of values and purpose. They fear leaving the planet uninhabitable. They believe that large corporations will intentionally misinform consumers because they only care about money. They feel strongly that local, natural (however they define it), unaltered food is better.

“Meat” Them Where They Are
These online breadcrumbs help inform engagement, targeting and messaging strategy. Armed with a detailed profile of the most influential cultured meat eaters allows the food industry to engage them directly with content that speaks to them.

This is true whether you’re a proponent or critic of meat alternatives. They key is to align values, demonstrating that you understand their motivations, fears and concerns.

The approach is consistent with CFI’s foundational trust research, which reveals that aligning values is three to five times more powerful in building trust than sharing science and facts.

Some words of caution as this new market emerges.

The meat alternatives market is likely to grow, consistent with current cultural trends disrupting the food system, so disregarding it as a passing interest (the proverbial burying one’s head in the sand) could be detrimental.

Evolution of Consumer Research  

The evolution of consumer research is empowering a new world of consumer engagement that is more precise and effective than traditional approaches.

The ability to instantly identify the specific consumer influencers driving a topic or trend and to produce content that we know will align with their values and beliefs is a powerful capability. Illuminate is an important new tool that creates meaningful trust-building opportunities.

If you’re interested in learning more, contact CFI at learnmore@foodintegrity.org.