Building a Market for New Meat Alternatives: Business Activity and Consumer Appetite in the Netherlands

Building a Market for New Meat Alternatives: Business Activity and Consumer Appetite in the Netherlands

Hans Dagevos (Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands), Ella Tolonen (The Good Food Institute, Finland) and Jaco Quist (Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7350-0.ch010


This chapter provides an overview of developments in the Netherlands on new meat alternatives with a focus on plant-based meat substitutes and lab-grown meat. It devotes attention to both the supply side of the market (business activity) and the demand side (consumer appetite). The first concerns developments in the meat substitutes' innovation system since the 1990s until now. It concludes that the Netherlands has become a major player. The latter concerns the supportive purchasing power of consumers regarding the building of a viable and strong market for new meat alternatives. It is concluded that available consumer studies provide evidence for being cautiously optimistic. The closing parts of this chapter, however, bring to the fore that a transition from the current high-meat diets to more sustainable and healthier diets with more non-meat sources of proteins is anything but self-evident. However encouraging and energetic modern developments in the Netherlands are, much progress is needed as it comes to consumer acceptance of new meat alternatives, producer capacity to innovate, concentrate strengths, and capture market share, as well as governmental support for reducing the adverse effects of today's meat consumption and production levels in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal 12 concerning responsible consumption and production.
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Der Gedanke, dass alles so ist, wie es ist, weil es nicht anders sein könnte, lässt alles Nachdenken über Alternativen erstarren. – Philipp Blom, Was auf dem Spiel steht (2017: 20)1



Finding new solutions to relieve and reduce the massive and multiple (i.e., environmental, human health, animal welfare and food security) problems associated with the excessive global production and consumption of meat, is a matter of growing urgency. After a few decades of research that has produced mounting and compelling evidence about the adverse effects of animal agriculture and overconsumption of meat, one of the new shoots on this tree of knowledge is a paper in Science by Poore and Nemecek (2018). This distinguished study also clearly corroborates the need for dietary change from current highly animal-based diets to more sustainable plant-based diets.

In such a broad dietary transition, the reduction and replacement of farmed meat products in our food consumption patterns, is essential. One promising and emerging avenue are the so-called “new meat alternatives” as an option that can provide protein foods with considerable lower environmental impact. In the remainder of this chapter we refer to new meat alternatives, particularly to plant-based and cellular alternatives, i.e., meat substitutes and cultured meat. More generally, however, the term meat alternatives or alternative protein sources could refer to all alternative protein product categories to current animal products (meat, dairy, eggs or fish) ranging from algae, seaweed, duckweed, rape seed, to pulses, molds and mushrooms, soy-based products, nuts, and to insects (see Figure 1 for an overview). As Figure 1 shows, some product categories have already been on the Dutch market for a long time, for instance nuts, mushrooms, legumes, and texturized vegetable products (e.g., soy-based or seitan), while cultured meat has not hit the market yet. Relatively new on the market are newly-advanced meat substitutes, and insects. Current meat substitutes and cultured meat have in common that both aim directly at imitating and therefore replacing meat in a meal. These two product categories both belong within the avenue of new meat alternatives due to their technological novelty, whereas insects and algae belong to it due to their novelty as a source for food in the Dutch context. Both these pairs of categories relate symbiotically in the sense that the novel food sources can make use of the new meat substitution technologies, for example, to increase familiarity. As indicated, our main focus with respect to new meat alternatives will be on plant-based meat substitutes and animal-based cultured meat.

In the following section, “Where a small country can be great,” we give an impression of the progressive business activities in the Netherlands, as it appears that this tiny country is quite prominent and innovative when it comes to new meat alternatives. Several Dutch companies are pioneering and leading in the field of developing new meat alternatives. For example, the Dutch company Vivera launched the first plant-based steak on the UK-market in May 2018, followed by market introductions in the Netherlands and other European countries in the summer of 2018. Another prominent Dutch company manufacturing alternative plant-based meat substitutes, i.e., the Vegetarian Butcher, will follow in Vivera’s track when their plant-based steak has its market introduction in due course. Meatless is another front-running company in the Netherlands which produces lupine-based material for meat substitutes. Also in the emerging field of cultured meat, a world’s first originates from the Netherlands: the Dutchman Mark Post presented the first cultured meat hamburger in August 2013. All in all, quite a lot of business activity and innovation are to be found in the Dutch context, which is important to evaluate in the light of building a market for new meat alternatives.

In the subsequent section, “Consumer appetite for meat alternatives,” we switch attention from the supply side to the demand side of the market, and investigate what we can expect from food consumers as supporters of making more environmentally-friendly and healthy dietary choices in general, and more specifically, making the new meat alternative choice. Our exploration leads us to academic consumer studies and their results. Do consumers appreciate new meat alternatives and do they contribute to the acceleration of plant foods as an attractive and ordinary alternative to replace meat?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): The 17 broad and interdependent Sustainable Development Goals came into effect in the beginning of 2016, as developed by the United Nations Development Programme and aiming for a more sustainable world in many aspects including poverty, hunger, health, education, gender equity, clean water and sanitation, clean and affordable energy, good jobs and economic growth, innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, sustainable consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace and justice, and partnerships for the goals. Various SDGs are more or less food related, but from this chapter’s perspective SDG 12 Sustainable Production and Consumption Patterns in particular is important.

Cultured Meat: Meat based on animal cells grown in a laboratory, also known as cellular or in vitro meat, to use the term that is becoming obsolete, or clean meat, to the use the term that is currently gaining popularity and is probably going to replace the term cultured meat.

Food Wars: Cultural concept describing the clashes and conflicts between the opposing two paradigms in today’s and tomorrow’s world of food (i.e., the so-called life sciences integrated paradigm and the ecologically integrated paradigm, respectively).

Flexitarian: A human diet which aims at reducing or abstaining from the consumption of all kinds of meat for several days per week.

New Meat Alternatives: Meat analogues or meat substitutes which are plant-based, lab-grown, or use ingredients other than livestock, such as insects.

Alternative Protein Sources: Alternatives to current animal products (such as meat, dairy, eggs, and fish) range from algae, seaweed, duckweed, rape seed, to pulses, molds and mushrooms, soy-based products, nuts, and to insects.

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