BELOIT, WIS. — Sustainability and health concerns are driving consumers to plant-based meat alternatives, but the taste experience of these products continues to fall short.

Those are among the findings of new research on plant-based by taste and nutrition specialist Kerry.

The research also found that flexitarians, the key consumer group driving the growth of plant-based, are more critical of products than vegan and vegetarian consumers are. And while sustainability is a top driver, consumers are unwilling to compromise on taste and seek products that are as close to the taste experience of animal products as possible.

The study also found that 63% of US consumers started eating plant-based products because they believe plant-based is ‘better for the planet,’ and 80% of US consumers are likely to buy a plant-based burger that is ‘rich and savory’.

Although beef is the benchmark, consumer expectations for plant-based burgers go beyond just the taste experience and are in fact higher. Consumers desire products with improved succulence and a ‘bite’ that feels as close to meat as possible. They also seek cooking cues such as charring which signal that a burger is perfectly cooked and safe to eat and want meat alternatives with improved nutrition.

 “The need for a great taste experience is universal,” said Fiona Sweeney, strategic marketing director at Kerry. “For plant-based foods, which are often chosen by consumers as a more sustainable option, ensuring great taste can be a gateway to delivering innovative and sustainable nutrition solutions for consumers around the world. However, ensuring a great taste experience - involving a full sensorial experience of sight, sound and texture - is highly complex and in plant-based foods it is inherently more challenging because the bar is set high with meat and dairy as the benchmark.”