Understanding Consumer Preferences for Plant-Based Food Alternatives

  • Understanding Consumer Preferences for Plant-Based Food Alternatives



As the demand for plant-based food alternatives continues to rise, understanding consumer preferences and sensory perceptions is crucial for the growth and development of this market. A recent study conducted in Western, Central, and Northern European countries investigated consumers' sensory-based cognitions of currently available plant-based alternatives and their ideal versions of these products. The study aimed to identify potential gaps between consumer expectations and the sensory attributes of existing plant-based food and beverage alternatives.

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Sensory Benchmarking

The research consisted of two parts: sensory vocabulary development and an online survey. The sensory benchmarking was conducted using the rapid sensory descriptive method known as Rate-All-That-Apply. The study focused on plant-based alternatives to popular animal-based products such as chicken, beef, semi-hard cheese, cream cheeseac, yogurt, and milk.

Key Findings

The survey results revealed valuable insights into consumers' preferences for various plant-based alternatives:

  • Plant-Based Milk and Yogurt: Consumers expressed overall satisfaction with plant-based milk and yogurt alternatives. Minor sensory modifications were desired, particularly to reduce the beany and sweet taste. Plant-based milk and yogurt received high liking scores, indicating a positive acceptance among consumers.
  • Plant-Based Semi-Hard Cheese: Plant-based semi-hard cheese alternatives received lower liking scores compared to other categories. Consumers expressed a desire for improvements in sensory attributes to make them more cheese-like, less artificial, and less bland.
  • Plant-Based Beef: For plant-based beef alternatives, consumers desired a more umami taste, as well as a taste and odor resembling real beef. These findings highlight the importance of enhancing sensory attributes to create a more authentic meat-like experience.
  • Plant-Based Chicken: Similarly, consumers preferred plant-based chicken alternatives that offered a taste, texture, and odor resembling real chicken. These findings suggest a need for sensory improvements to deliver a more chicken-like sensory experience.
  • Plant-Based Cream Cheese: Consumers expressed a desire for plant-based cream cheese alternatives that had a more balanced, cheesier taste and odor while avoiding artificial flavors. These preferences provide direction for product development in this category.

Implications for Product Development

The study's findings offer strategic insights for the development of plant-based food alternatives, helping manufacturers identify areas for improvement and innovate products that align with consumer expectations. By addressing sensory gaps and incorporating consumer preferences, companies can tap into new market opportunities and cater to the growing demand for plant-based options.



Consumer preferences and sensory perceptions play a vital role in the acceptance and growth of plant-based food alternatives. This study sheds light on the sensory gaps between currently available and ideal versions of plant-based alternatives in Europe. By understanding these preferences, manufacturers can make targeted improvements to meet consumer expectations and capitalize on the expanding market for plant-based foods. With continued research and development, the future of plant-based alternatives looks promising, offering consumers a wide array of delicious and satisfying options.


We would like to extend our gratitude to the Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen for conducting the study and to the Smart Protein Project.

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Understanding Consumer Preferences for Plant-Based Food Alternatives - News
A recent study investigated consumers' sensory-based cognitions of currently available plant-based alternatives. Read more here!