PROTEIN2FOOD partner Louis Bolk Institute is exploring the food landscape for opportunities to introduce plant-based products. They tested novel plant protein products and meat substitutes to identify barriers and drivers of their acceptance. Out of 11 products, quinoa burgers, ‘vegetarian’ chicken, and a vegetarian lupine spread are highly recommended by the participants. Especially meat replacing products that are not similar to meat and snacks low in sugar are perceived as sustainable and healthy.

In total, 28 meat reducers tested products from the following groups: meat replacers, new snacks with plant protein, replacement or enrichment of staple food, new sources of plant protein from lupine bean and new easy meal concepts (see table). They received the foods and an instruction booklet with recipe suggestions to test at home. After three weeks, participants reported their feedback through a two-piece questionnaire.

First, participants scored on a scale from 1 to 7 on tastefulness, familiarity, easiness of preparation and recommendation to friends and family (see table). The quinoa burger as well as lupin spread were considered as the tastiest products. The most familiar products were the ‘vegetarian’ chicken and the Quinotto. The Lupi Love spread (vegetarian spread made from lupins), protein enriched bread as well as the ready-made chickpea curry in a bag were judged as the products that are the easiest to prepare. In each category, the dried and chopped lupins scored the lowest.

Second, participants discussed in groups about the following question: “What did you like about the product and what did you not like about the product?”. Since participants liked to replace meat, products such as quinoa burger or ‘vegetarian’ chicken were popular. However, meat imitation foods needed to be equally tasty as well as equally priced or cheaper. Within the group, replacers not similar to meat were regarded as more sustainable. Snacks and bites were only popular when low in sugar. For instance, participants considered the savoury bean snack with soy sauce flavour as a “filling, healthy and easy snack”. The protein-rich staple foods were appreciated because of their easy preparation, but also revealed negative connotations like being more expensive, “overly processed” and less sustainable. The lupin beans in glass or dried and chopped were considered novel and yielded mixed reactions because participants struggled to pair it with other flavours. The participants preferred lupines as a processed, spiced and recognisable product such as the Lupi Love spread.

Overall, this investigation revealed that meat reducers are interested in new products and new technologies if the food is palatable, easy to prepare and has some clear advantages for health and the environment. It underlines the importance of PROTEIN2FOOD’s work on developing novel protein ingredients and food prototypes to meet consumers’ demands.