It's not vegetarian, it's meat-free! Meat eaters, meat reducers and vegetarians and the case of Quorn in the UK

Chrysostomos Apostolidis, Fraser Mcleay

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    During the past decade, environmental, health, economic and ethical concerns relating to increasing levels of meat consumption have attracted the interest of governments, media and the public. Existing literature has highlighted the impact of personal values and the perceived benefits that meat substitutes bring to consumer food choices and sustainable consumption. Food policy makers often put faith in food manufacturers to identify appropriate interventions aimed at changing consumer behaviour and encouraging more sustainable diets. The purpose of this paper is to explore how values and benefits influence consumer preferences for meat substitute products and consumer perceptions on how a meat substitute manufacturer can motivate people to replace meat. Methodology Quorn, the largest manufacturer of meat substitutes in the UK, is used as a case study to explore consumer perceptions of meat substitutes and related behaviour. Recently, Quorn has gone to great lengths to improve the image of substitute products, and employed various strategies to encourage substitution of meat with meat-free alternatives on the basis of health and sustainability. Using the means-end chain approach and Schwarz's (1992) theory of basic values, the research links the Quorn-specific attributes to the needs and values of UK consumers. Thirty-two vegetarians, meat reducers and meat eaters were recruited and participated in 4 group interview sessions that followed a 'hard' laddering approach, to measure the means-end chains and provide insights into consumer motivation when purchasing Quorn products. The results were coded using content analysis, and the themes were aggregated and presented in a set of Hierarchical Value Maps. Findings Even though Quorn products are perceived as more expensive, most consumers associate them with health and sustainability-related benefits driven by values of security, benevolence and universalism. Furthermore, hedonism and conformity are identified as important values, driving purchases of meat substitutes. A pleasant taste, easiness to replace meat in food dishes, and a fit with the current lifestyle are important. Contribution Our results show that differences exist between groups of consumers with respect to their meat consumption patterns, and therefore different interventions may be necessary to encourage meat substitution. The effectiveness of advertising, celebrity endorsement and digital media is discussed as having a positive impact on demand for meat substitutes, and therefore could be part of an intervention agenda aimed at encouraging more sustainable patterns of meat consumption.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)267-290
    Number of pages24
    JournalSocial Business
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2016


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