Opinion: Why Blended Meat is Not a BIG Idea

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Marketing expert Irina Gerry argues that while blended meat, could meet niche consumer needs such as upgraded nutrition or improved flavor, it’s not a ‘big’ idea.

This article is part of our content series exploring the world of hybrid and blended meat products – those blending cultivated or conventional proteins with plant-based ingredients, respectively, and why some think this is the future of reducing meat consumption.

The concept of blended meat — combining plant-based ingredients with animal meat — has recently emerged as a solution to the challenges faced by purely plant-based meats. At first glance, it seems like a compelling proposition, promising enhanced taste compared to plant-based meat, reduced environmental impact versus animal-based meat, and potentially better pricing. Recent entrants into this space include brands like 50/50 Foods, Paul’s Table, and Mush Foods. However, does this idea truly address consumer needs, or is it merely an industry-driven solution?

The Best of Both Worlds: Understanding Flexitarians

The rise of flexitarian diets suggests a willingness to embrace both plant-based and animal products. However, this doesn’t automatically translate into a desire for blended products. Products like almond-dairy milk blend by Live Real Farms or mixed chicken and Raised and Rooted blended meat and plant-based protein burgers by Tyson haven’t performed well in the market. 

The reason for this is the lack of a real consumer need. We don’t see consumers mixing almond and dairy milk in the same glass. They likely have both milks in their fridge, but use them for different occasions or different members of the household, based on a specific set of preferences. Similarly, we rarely see anyone blending a Beyond Burger with ground beef to improve the flavor.

Quality Perception of Blended Meat: A Complicated Relationship

The act of blending can create a perception of lesser quality. Meat enthusiasts often view pure meat as a high-quality product. When you start mixing in soy or pea protein, it’s like watering down a fine wine. Remember when rumors of McDonald’s burger patties getting mixed with soy caused a social media outrage? The company now specifically messages that its patties are 100% beef, with no fillers, as proof of quality.

The same goes for plant-based consumers. When they choose to have a plant-based product, they are doing so consciously, and for a variety of reasons such as health, ethics, or the environment. None of these reasons is strengthened by adding animal protein to the mix. So, the blend likely dilutes the value proposition for both camps.

Choice and Control: The Art of Personalization

Most consumers enjoy a mix of plant-based and animal-based foods, but they do so on their own terms. They might choose a purely plant-based dish one day and mix and match both plant and animal foods another day. Some are vegan at home, whilst indulging in a pepperoni pizza on weekends, or they might stretch ground beef with veggies and bread crumbs for cost savings. The key is personalization and control over the mixing and matching based on specific occasions and recipes. It is unlikely for a single product to satisfy such divergent needs, especially if it’s a standard product like a burger patty.

Narrow Appeal: The Challenge of a Niche Market

Given these factors, blended meat risks becoming a niche product category. For meat eaters, adding plant-based elements may seem like a compromise in quality and taste. For plant-based consumers, the introduction of animal ingredients feels counterintuitive. The appeal might be limited to a small segment of flexitarians, driven by a specific need or usage occasion, likely making it a commercial challenge. 

Blending to meet a specific consumer need, such as lower cost or better nutrition, could be a viable idea, but it’s just not a BIG idea. 

So, What’s the Way Forward?

To give blended meat the best chance of success, we need a consumer-centric approach. Here are two potential positioning strategies:

  1. Lead with Flavor: People enjoy exploring new flavors. Incorporating caramelized onions and roasted bell peppers on a burger, or adding a portobello mushroom for an umami boost, can enhance the appeal. This approach focuses on exciting flavors rather than compromising taste or nutritional values. Blending animal-based meat with whole plant ingredients that contribute to an intriguing flavor profile has potential, especially if brands lead with a positive taste experience. However, this might result in occasional purchases due to fractionated usage occasions, leading to low turnover.
  2. Better Nutrition without Compromise: Many consumers aspire to eat healthier foods. Blended meat products offering additional nutritional benefits, such as more fiber, reduced saturated fat, and fewer calories, could be appealing. However, ensuring that taste is not compromised is crucial. Since most consumers choose animal-based meat for its taste, any compromise on this front could spell trouble. Thus, a strategy that leads with great taste, while delivering improved nutrition as a secondary benefit, might hold more promise.

Solving The Blended Meat Puzzle

Successfully positioning blended meat products requires navigating the complex landscape of consumer preferences, quality perceptions, cultural influences, and dietary choices. While the idea holds potential, its success hinges on more than just merging two types of proteins, as a logical response to current struggles of plant-based meat. It demands a deep understanding of consumer desires and their choices in integrating plant-based and animal-based foods into their diets. Only by tapping into these nuances can blended meat transcend being a fleeting trend and secure a meaningful place in our diverse and dynamic food landscape.


  • Irina Gerry

    A purpose-driven entrepreneur and marketing leader, Irina Gerry is on a mission to transform the food system and drive widespread adoption of sustainable ways to feed the world. She is a CMO at Change Foods, a precision fermentation food tech company, creating animal-free dairy products. Irina has over a decade of experience in consumer marketing space with global giants, P&G and Danone, as well as business strategy and operations with Deloitte. Irina holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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