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Alternative snack protein: “Hybrid” meat wins over insects, lentils and seaweed

By Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn , 04-Feb-2014
Last updated on 04-Feb-2014 at 14:18 GMT

Alternative snack protein: “Hybrid” meat, insects, lentils and seaweed

Locusts, lentils, seaweed or “hybrid” meat? Researchers have found that consumers prefer the thought of non-specified meat substitute snacks over those containing insects or seaweed. 

The researchers found that when presented with four snack options containing eco-friendly protein ingredients, 54% of respondents said they would most like to taste the snack made from a combination of meat and a non-specified meat substitute. Less popular were the snacks containing lentils or beans (30%), seaweed (12%), and insects like locusts (4%).

The study, published in the journal Food Quality and Preference, claims that overall involvement with food and other social factors plays a part in this decision making process.

Reluctant meat eaters

The survey found that those who ate the most meat were less likely to choose the lentils and seaweed snacks as a something they would like to try. In contrast, those who ate more fish were more likely to choose the seaweed snack.

The researchers also found that city dwelling participants with a higher level of education were more likely to opt for the snacks made from lentils and seaweed. 

“Highly involved, taste oriented and/or reflection oriented consumers with a high level of education and an urban background may become “trendsetters” who appreciate authentic sources of proteins, such as lentils and seaweed,” the VU University researchers said.

In terms of the snack they were least likely to want to taste, most participants chose the snack made from insects (79%). The remaining participants said they would not like to try the snack made from lentils or beans (8%), seaweed (8%) or hybrid meat (5%). 

Foodie feelings

The research looked at the level of involvement with food, whether varied and adventurous taste preferences or a preference for an “ordinary” meal or in terms of a focus and reflection on the wider implications of food choices for health, naturalness and ethical considerations. 

Based on this idea, the researchers presented an online survey to a stratified sample in the Netherlands asking respondents to identify themselves with a portrait of certain food motivations. For example, they were asked to rate on a seven-point scale the representativeness of statements like: “She likes to vary her meal. She is curious about new tastes,” “She is very mindful of food. She wants to eat sensibly,” and “She feels proud of her taste. She believes that her food choices are very attractive.”

The researchers said that it was important to understand the motivations behind food choices and that in this case this revealed that, with the exception of insects, there was room to develop alternative protein sources within the snack market.

“The relative popularity of the hybrid snack suggests that it may be valuable to combine vegetarian and animal protein. Instead, responses to insects may be more complex, dependent on the form in which locusts are presented to consumers,” the researchers wrote.   

Source:  Food Quality and Preference
Vol. 28, Iss. 1, pp. 32-35, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2012.07.008
“Motivational differences in food orientation and the choice of snacks made from lentils, locusts, seaweed or “hybrid” meat”
Authors: J. Boer, H. Schösler and J.J. Boersema 

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