Food-tech startups the world over are hard at work creating cultured-meat and -dairy products for the mass market. From salmon to chicken to cheese, many well-loved animal-based foods are being developed as cultured alternatives. These products have the potential to significantly improve the sustainability and safety of the global food system. The key to their success, however, is acceptance. Will consumers want to buy and eat these products?
Current research suggests varying levels of acceptance of cultured-meat and cultured-dairy products, and there are many factors at play.
How people adopt products: innovators vs laggards
When it comes to innovation – of any kind – some people fervently embrace change while others are reluctant, preferring to stick to what they know. In general, there are five types of adopters of new products:
- Innovators: these are the first consumers to try new products. They are risk takers, excited by the possibility of new ideas.
- Early adopters: this second group tends to have the most influence on the market. Early adopters typically have higher levels of education and income. They also make reasoned decisions (and write reasoned reviews!) about the products they engage with.
- Early majority: these consumers emerge when a product begins to have mass-market appeal. They want to be reasonably certain that they will like a product before purchasing it.
- Late majority: people in this category are generally skeptical of innovation. They tend to have lower levels of income and prefer to put their more limited resources into tried-and-tested products.
- Laggards: these consumers are the last to arrive at the adoption party. Laggards value tradition and are very averse to risk and change.
Customer adoption patterns hold true for basically any product – and cultured meat will be no exception. We’d expect to see innovators and early adopters taking the reins and, if the response is positive, everyone else will surely follow.