A new study analysing who eats meat substitutes in the US has concluded that very few of the households who bought meat alternatives identified as vegan, and the average consumer of plant-based substitutes still spent a standard amount of money on real meat products every month. This suggests that fake meats have not had much of an impact on the meat industry yet.
The study, titled “Consumer spending patterns for plant-based meat alternatives”, authored by Joel Cuffey, Lauren Chenarides, and Wenying Li,Shuoli Zhao, and published in May 2022 in the journal Applied Economics Perspective and Policy, analysed the spending patterns of 52,022 US households between 2014 and 2019 who regularly self-reported their shopping trips to Nielsen Homescan. It also concluded that a household’s socio-economic status is a great indicator of whether or not they’ll buy meat substitutes, which could be because many meat substitutes are difficult to find in food deserts.
One-third of every household that bought meat alternatives in the study only bought it once. Households who tried vegan substitutes for the first time usually bought them while they were experimenting with new foods, only to revert to their original spending habits immediately after. This is not surprising because if the increase in the offer of meat substitutes is not matched with an increase of people adhering to the vegan philosophy, people will not have an ethical drive to push them toward a more compassionate and sustainable lifestyle. This study suggests that any survey that tries to assess the growth of veganism based on the number of purchases of vegan substitutes or the number of searchers made on the internet is likely to overestimate it. Although veganism is not a fashion but a very old philosophy with ancient roots, the practice to buy fake meats may be.