Consumers Fear Lab-Grown Food

Young customers are more open to lab-produced products.

December 19, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Younger consumers are more likely than older ones to try synthetic and lab-grown foods and beverages, according to Food Dive.

A recent survey of 500 U.S. consumers found that about one-third of respondents were concerned and one-quarter were worried about how healthy lab-grown products are compared to conventionally produced food. The survey was conducted by Charleston|Orwig​, a Wisconsin-based marketing and communications firm, Maeve Webster of Menu Matters and Confidential Consumer.

"There is an emerging awareness by Americans, especially the younger generation, that new technologies will become part of our food system," said Mark Gale, CEO of Charleston|Orwig. "For most consumers who are willing to give synthetic and lab-based foods a try, transparency and more information will be critical to adoption. They wonder: What’s in it? How is it made? Is it safe to eat?"

Ongoing transparency and education about technology-driven foods are needed to encourage more consumers to try these foods. Even though more than half the population is receptive to lab-grown products, more than 40% of survey respondents said lab-produced or synthetic foods and beverages are "scary" and they have no plans to add them to their diets.

Greater acceptance was indicated among consumers ages 18-34, with about a fifth of them saying that lab-grown products are the future and will help save the planet. But not all young people are optimistic. More than a quarter of that age group called the items "scary" and said they wouldn't try them. However, this is less than the 46% of consumers ages 55-plus with the same views.

Developers and manufacturers of lab-grown foods are familiar with these concerns and have been working to address them. Meanwhile, more lab-grown beef, chicken, fish and crustacean products are being rushed to market. Israeli startup Aleph Farms recently announced it had developed a cell-grown minute steak, while Future Meat Technologies is building a facility dedicated to producing cultured meat. Memphis Meats is working on lab-cultured meat and poultry, with both Tyson Foods and Cargill as investors. Just is working to develop lab-grown chicken and has partnered with Japanese meat producer Toriyama to create lab-grown wagyu beef. 

One asset of lab-grown products is the sustainability factor. More consumers are questioning whether raising and consuming conventional meat is good for their health, animal welfare and the planet, and manufacturers have been advised to stress those points to win over shoppers.