Singaporeans are more accepting of cultivated meats than their U.S. counterparts. The finding comes from a study conducted by the Singapore Management University (SMU). Data points to a correlation between social image and acceptance of new technologies with Singaporeans seemingly motivated to eat certain foods for a positive social image.
Links to ‘kiasu-ism’ were made, referring to a cultural trait that makes people worry about missing out on a trend, similar to the western term ‘FOMO’, or Fear Of Missing Out. Kiasu-ism has been cited as a potential driver for cultivated meat acceptance in Singapore given its future food status and frequent press coverage.
Consumer attitudes to cultivated meat
The study’s researchers were looking to fill in knowledge gaps surrounding overall consumer opinions on cultivated meat. Perception of and likelihood to accept products were addressed. The move comes as Singapore continues to increase its promotion and approval of the future food technology.
Led by Mark Chong, an associate professor of communication management at SMU, the research was conducted in 2021. 616 Singaporeans and 759 Americans were polled between July and August. Participants were asked about their opinions and willingness to buy cultivated meat. They were asked to rank how likely they would be to buys such products in place of convention and plant-based meats. A ‘social image eating motivation scale’ was used as a yardstick for understanding responses.
The results conclusively show that Singapore is open to and ready for cultivated meat to become a food norm, whereas the U.S. is less certain. Chong and his associates explained the findings, in part, by that Singaporeans in general seek to project an image of being trailblazers. This naturally includes being first to try, experience and accept new trends. Novel foods included.
Food security as a motivating factor
A motivation not mentioned could be the 30 by 30 initiative that the Singapore government has set in motion. Addressing the fact that most of the country’s food is imported, bolstering local and sustainable food production is key to survival and food security. The program seeks to ensure that 30 percent of the food eaten in Singapore is made locally, by 2030. It features in the Singapore Green Plan and connects to the country’s growing cultivated sector.
Companies leading the way
To date, only one company in the world has been granted regulatory approval to produce and sell cultivated meat products. US-founded Eat Just, through its Good Meat brand, has had two chicken developments green-lit in Singapore. Approval for the two came almost exactly one year apart, with the most recent addition accepted in December 2021. A recent partnership with traditional hawker stalls means wider access to cultivated products.
Domestically, Singaporean cultivated companies are making good progress. Umami Meats secured $2.4 million in pre-seed funding earlier this month. The startup is focused on creating sustainable seafood that is “cultivated not caught”. The raise was initiated to support continued serum development and production cost auditing to assess commercial viability. Fellow alt-seafood developer Shiok Meats, producer of the world’s first cultivated crab meat, is pressing ahead with its mission to bring novel foods to market as soon as possible. In November last year, the food tech revealed it had secured follow-on funding after a bridge round, to progress commercialisation. It aims to have products available to consumers by 2023, at the very least domestically.
Lead photo by Shiok Meats.