Last week, Global Food Security Index was released by Economic Intelligence Unit, Sponsored by Corteva, which showed the food security of countries around the world. Which showed GFSI in terms of affordability, Availability, Quality & Safety and Natural Resources Resiliency. It has various Indicator framework which consist of many besides Protein quality, climate, sufficiency of supply. The reporting to exposure to climate shocks, water and land quality issues, population pressure also strengthened the GFSI report. After a span of 7 years, the food security has decreased for the second consecutive year in a row. The main degradation factor was the affordability category (66 out of 133 countries), owning to Covid-19, unemployment, economic situation, social safety nets like food security programs. NA & Europe remained leaders with Finland ranked one. Asia pacific hovers around world average with a potential to improvement.  

ceramic plate with drawings of sushi
Photo by Ryutaro Tsukata on Pexels.com

I remember my schooling days when we were taught the basic element of all living organisms on earth is the DNA and is made up of protein. I also awe of eating habits of my friends, some prefer to eat pure vegetarian and some use to take meat including variety of animals. When we wanted to eat protein, my father used to provide us “Meal Maker”. Recently when I went to shopping with my daughter, she chooses Soy Milk over normal Milk available at the counter. I was surprised at this move and thought over it for next few days on the trend we are witnessing in the world today. Due to one reason or the other people are slowly moving towards alternative sources of food, specially which is derived from animals. There are huge literature available show casing how plant-based proteins can in-fact replace the animal’s protein. The reasons quoted for such change in the attitude of the customers is increasing trend in virus outbreaks on animals or poultry, dietary reasons, lifestyle diseases, concerns over how animal agriculture is carried out etc. We all convinced or at varying stages of belief systems that we need a definite transition towards lower meat consumption levels and increasing plant-based consumption pattern. We have various options of doing so like becoming a pure vegan or reducing meat intake or taking at reduced intervals. Though the market share of plant-based meat availability is low, it has a very good potential of increasing in years come to have a sizable place in the consumer demand.

There are many papers which demonstrate that alternative proteins which are derived from pulses, algae rice bran etc., are more environmentally friendly compared to animal-based meat. Even we witness how a company recently cultured meat in the laboratory, again sustainability or environmental implications of such processes is not yet full available in the literature. To complicate this further, I find many of my friends wants to eat meat just for the sake of feel of eating a chicken for example. I remember when I conversed with my friends about Spirulina based capsule which has lots of protein content in it, their question was will they be able to taste it the way a chicken piece taste. So, to bring the topic of my previous blog post-consumer perception of green products again this topic is very huge research around the world. Several articles are published which study consumers over past 2 years and highlight the perception of the consumers towards to plant based meat.

The main attitudes and behavior which drive a person eating pattern is motive, food neophobia, and how aware the person is to the available body of knowledge. Studies which were carried out based on willingness to pay, intention to try or purchase the alternate protein food suggest that people are at the beginning of the curve with hesitant mind set. They are not fully aware of the benefits compared to the traditional food for which many reported low acceptance rate for plant-based protein food. Some of the motives which were quoted as contributing factor in their decision was taste, variety, perceived benefits, preparation difficulty or lack of knowledge. Besides these the quoted reflections were different for different types of protein products.

When people were explained about the sustainability benefits of using the alternative proteins their consumption rate increased. Sometimes the economic conditions of the consumers like economic, nutritional information intervened the consumption rate. Past consumption pattern also helped in consumer perception towards the plant-based meat. Taste and health criteria also influenced people making choices. One noticeable trend observed in a study carried out in Belgium, where a two-year period study of consumers to plant based meat showed, there was an increase in the number of respondents who claimed that existing plant based alterative meat met their expectations, with nearly half of the respondents claiming positively.

To conclude, the topic of consumer behavior whether it is with sustainability related issues based on building resilience to future generations or ensuring we have uninterrupted availability due to COVID-19 like pandemic scenarios. We are also aware food security issues with developing and economically poor countries. We all are humans and need a balanced diet to stay fit with the increasing lifestyle patterns we are surrounded by and further we need to go towards ensuring food security. We are already aware of how plant-based remedies help warding off diseases, builds resistance and there has been huge literature on traditional food culture of the world. Going back to GFSI report that only 54 countries currently have food security strategy in place, which requires to be urgently improved. The topic of alternative plant-based meat generation and its acceptance is a huge driver for the success of future generations. It further needs detailed assessment, evaluation of long term impacts if any. I leave you with a reference of a book on this topic by Sudarshan R Nadathur, PD Wanasundara & Laurie Scanlin, titled “Sustainable Food Sources.”

Thanks

Jayakumar

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