Study finds 90% of Chinese consumers would eat cell-cultivated “customized meat,” 30% would make it their main protein purchase if parity is reached

January 12, 2022 - 4 min read

Market report from Lever China and Chinese media outlet FoodPlus also finds the term "customized meat" resonates best with Chinese consumers

Shanghai – A new study of over 2,000 consumers across China finds 90% say they would eat cultivated meat, and 30% would make it their main source of protein if it can achieve the same taste and texture as conventional meat. The study also found that, among a variety of different Chinese language names tested, the Chinese term for “customized meat” (订制肉) generated the greatest consumer interest in the category. The study, which analyzed Chinese consumers' perceptions of the new sector, willingness to try, long-term purchase intentions, and demographic differences, was conducted by Lever China, a Shanghai-based consultancy specializing in the alternative protein sector, and Food Plus, a Shanghai-based media and research institution focusing on entrepreneurships in the food industry.

The survey showed that the Chinese term for customized meat received the highest evaluations in multiple dimensions, including taste, product attractiveness, convenience, nutrition, and for being the most natural. 订制肉 (“customized meat”) also had the best performance in boosting interest in trying the product and in eating it regularly. A Chinese term for “clean meat” also performed well, standing out in dimensions of health, food safety and sustainability. By contrast, Chinese terms for “cell meat” and “cell-cultivated meat” performed relatively weakly in encouraging consumption. Previous studies have found that the English term “cultivated meat” likely works best for English-speaking audiences.

As one of the sectors of the alternative protein field, cultivated meat has garnered significant attention in China in recent years. With the Chinese government’s increasing emphasis on issues such as food safety and environment sustainability, cultivated meat is becoming an important innovation area to optimize the nation’s protein resources and help the country to achieve its carbon reduction goal. Baoguo Sun, a member of the CPPCC (Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference) and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, noted during the Thirteenth National People's Congress in 2020 that “cultivated meat has become the most popular research topic in the global meat industry, and is expected to become the most effective method to solve meat supply problems in the future.”

The FoodPlus and Lever China study also found that if the taste and texture of cultivated meat is the same as conventional animal meat, more than 60% of respondents would purchase it occasionally, with another 30% making cultivated meat the main type of meat they purchase. In total, more than 90% of consumers would add cultivated meat to their diet alongside traditional animal meat. Respondents aged 26-40 showed the highest level of interest.

“We’re very excited to see the huge interest in ‘customized meat’ by the Chinese public,” said Cecilia Zhao, alternative protein project manager of Lever China. “Choosing an authentic Chinese name that can balance the technology, marketing appealing, and culture familiarity is an important step to help with the industry’s development in China. The study suggests that using the term 订制肉 (“customized meat”) can help the government and industry meet its goals in this sector by increasing public interest and willingness to try the product, which we believe is critical for building a national sustainable system of meat consumption in the future.”

“The cultivated meat sector has been receiving increasing attention due to the concern of global population growth and climate change,” said Ziliang Yang, Co-Founder and CEO of leading Chinese cultivated meat company CellX. “It's particularly important to better communicate with consumers and reach consensus in the industry. Thanks Lever China and FoodPlus for conducting the survey to help consumers understand more about the emerging industry."

“The name gives consumers the first impression of the product. Whether the naming can accurately convey what cultivated meat is and gain consumer acceptance is very critical,” said Doris Lee, general manager of GFI Consultancy. “We hope that Lever China's report could stimulate a wide-ranging discussion on the naming of cultivated meat and help the industry to find a name that is suitable for the China market.”

You can view the complete survey report here (Chinese only):  ****

About Lever China

Lever China is a Shanghai-based consultancy that focuses on early-stage investment and consultancy services in the alternative protein industry, covering plant-based, cultivated and fermented animal proteins. Lever China was awarded the Top 20 Innovation Fund Award and named as the 2020 International Future Agri-Food Top 100, in addition to being highlighted as one of the top 7 Chinese Food & CPG Investment Institutions to watch by FoodPlusHub for its work and investments in the alternative protein sector in China. Lever China aims to advance innovation in the alternative protein industry in China by supporting startups, investors and food companies.

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