In fact, they prefer plant-based and clean meat more than the Americans, although the US is the innovation hub of alternative meat products, where companies such as Impossible Foods, JUST, and Beyond Meat are based.
According to a study published in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, more Chinese were “very or extremely likely” to buy clean meat when compared to the Americans and Indians.
The number of Chinese who were “very or extremely likely” to purchase clean meat was twice as much as the Americans at 59.3% versus 29.8% and 10% more than the Indians.
When it came to plant-based food, all three groups expressed a higher rate of acceptance.
Yet, the number of Chinese who were “very or extremely likely” to spend on the product was again nearly twice as much as the Americans at 62.4% versus 32.9%, while that of Indians were slightly higher at 62.8%.
Conducted by researchers from the Centre for Long Term Priorities at Hong Kong, The Good Food Institute at Washington DC, and the University of Bath, 3,030 participants took part in the research.
Out of which, 1,019 came from China, 1,024 from India, and 987 from the US, they were required to answer an online questionnaire about clean meat and plant-based meat.
Participants were required to indicate how many times they ate meat for each of the three meals in an average week, rate their attitudes towards conventional meat, and to consider a hypothetical future where clean, plant-based, and conventional meats are widely available.
The study found that alternative meat products were more popular with the Chinese as they were perceived to be healthier, tastier, more nutritious, exciting, and sustainable as a long term food source.
“Most consumer research thus far has focused disproportionately on the West, leaving emerging markets relatively unexplored. Our findings indicate that these markets represent high-value opportunities for plant-based and clean meat producers, most of which are US-based,” the researchers said.
They thus concluded that “modifications to increase health and nutrition profiles compared to conventional meat (such as decreasing saturated fat content or increasing omega fatty acids) may be particularly welcome in China.”
“Excitement as well as perceived goodness and necessity also predicted purchase likelihood of clean meat, indicating that some consumers will find clean meat appealing as a novel solution to problems of conventional meat,” they added.
The study found that Chinese women are more likely than men to buy both clean and plant-based meat.
Also, meat eaters are more likely to buy these meat alternatives as compared to with vegetarians and vegans, which was a similar observation in India.
A different trend was seen in the US, as those who were especially attached to meat said they were relatively unlikely to buy plant-based meat, reasons included low appeal, excitement, and disgust level.
The researchers acknowledged that there were a few limitations and bias to the findings.
One of the biases was incorporating more urban-dwellers, well-educated and high income participants as compared to the general population in China and India.
”It is possible that some respondents over-reported their familiarity with these products, though it may simply be a reflection of the urban well-educated samples,” they wrote.
“Although we were careful to develop and translate clear descriptions of the products, we also cannot rule out the possibility that some participants did not fully understand them,” the researchers said.
In a separate survey by YouGov last year, only 26% of the Chinese consumers said they would eat clean meat, which was amongst the lowest rate of acceptance compared to other countries in Asia.
Elsewhere in Thailand and Vietnam, there was a higher acceptance of clean meat, with acceptance rate at 34% and 52% respectively, according to the survey.
Source: Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems
A Survey of Consumer Perceptions of Plant-Based and Clean Meat in the USA, India, and China
Authors: Christopher Bryant, et al