The study, conducted at Wageningen University and published in Food Quality and Preference journal, looked at whether these relatively new foods would be better appreciated after repeated consumption, and the factors relevant to establishing meat substitutes as replacements in the long term.
Researchers asked 89 non-vegetarians to eat tofu, Quorn or chicken (as a reference meat) as part of a hot meal 20 times during a 10-week period.
They found that diners became bored with all three foods over that period, such that by the end “there were no significant differences in product liking any more”.
But within the three groups, liking due to “mere exposure” increased significantly more with tofu, i.e. the more people ate it, the more they liked it.
But the research also showed that negative first experiences tend to lead to an unwillingness to try the product again – suggesting that food manufacturers need to win consumers over with the first mouthful.
“In order to improve long-term acceptance of environmentally sustainable meat substitutes, we suggest to focus mainly on increasing the willingness to try and to establish positive initial product experiences,” the report’s authors concluded.
“Besides improving the quality of single products, the meal context should be considered in product development of new meat substitutes as well.”