Animal-free dairy cheese appeals to over half of global consumers

20 Jul 2021

Globally, 70.5% of consumers said they would be willing to buy cheese made with dairy proteins that don’t come from animals, according to a new survey from the precision fermentation company Formo and the University of Bath published in the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. That number climbs even higher to 78.8% for consumers who said they are probably or definitely likely to try such a product.

This survey polled just over 5,000 people from the U.S., U.K., Brazil, Germany and India. Out of the participants polled, the U.S. and the U.K. had the lowest number of consumers who said they would be likely to buy cheese animal-free dairy with a 53.8% and 58.5% positive response rate respectively. The U.S. demonstrated particularly polarized results with a larger proportion of respondents answering that they either “definitely” would or would not purchase an animal-free dairy cheese.

Animal-free dairy cheese appeals to over half of global consumers

Brazil and India, however, had the highest rates of acceptance for animal-free cheese. In each country, the vast majority of people, 92.0% and 93.4% respectively, said they would probably or definitely try animal-free dairy cheese.

When asked whether they would regularly purchase such a product, positive responses for all those surveyed dropped substantially, and only in Brazil and Germany did the majority of people (68% and 73.9%) respond that they would do so.

While animal-free cheese was perceived as a more ethical and environmentally friendly product across all countries, respondents perceived this product as less tasty than traditional animal dairy equivalents despite their impression that it would have a similar health and safety profile.

Taste remains one of the major hurdles that manufacturers face when making animal-free protein alternatives. A 2019 white paper by Kerry found that good taste, or lack thereof, remains the No. 1 barrier for plant-based substitutes. Even with continuing struggles with flavor, it is a positive sign that nearly three-quarters of consumers are willing to give animal-free cheese a taste.

At this point, animal-free cheese equivalents are not available on the market despite plant-based alternatives proliferating at a rapid pace. As a result, companies that are working with precision fermentation to create a cheese that does not rely on traditional animal husbandry have time to both work on taste and storytelling to persuade consumers to do more than just try these products and instead become regular buyers.

If they can succeed in persuading people to shift to animal-free dairy, there is plenty of room to grow. SPINS data from 2020 showed that the market for plant-based cheese grew twice as fast as dairy cheese, jumping 42%. If startups can figure out how to align their animal-free products with the plant-based movement, there is a good chance that they too will be able to benefit from this continuing surge in animal-free product popularity.

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