What's the recipe for successful cultured meat? Cultivating consumer confidence

What's the recipe for successful cultured meat? Cultivating consumer confidence


The environmental challenge of the food system is one of the trickiest and most politically contentious challenges of our time. One potential solution lies in cultured meat grown in laboratories. As the UK moves towards permitting these meats and adapting regulation, sustainability specialist Bella Nourse and policy consultant Tobias Burke have taken a look at the current state of play and barriers to cultured meat with a special focus on the attitudes of consumers, backed by Stonehaven’s own survey data.

Cultured meat (also called lab-grown, cultivated or cell-based) provokes a beefy and polarised response across the globe. This divisiveness is reflected in the support (or lack of support) cultured meat is receiving from Governments worldwide. While some countries are giving regulatory approval, others have moved to ban these products to “safeguard their nation’s heritage”.


Unlike other meat alternatives, it is identical to meat at a cellular level. It involves taking cells from live animals and growing them in cultivators. With nutrients, they then proliferate into tissues, which can be assembled into a final product. This process is touted as a sustainability panacea to the meaty problems in our food sector. Scientists state that, if executed correctly, these products have significant climate, food security, health, and animal welfare benefits. There is also clearly a business interest in the sector as funding within the UK grew 400% in 2022 from £12m to £59m.

However, the current challenge for the cultured meat sector in the UK is regulation. The UK Government needs to provide an agile regulatory landscape for companies to bring cultured meat products to market. Singapore and the US have been the first movers, giving regulatory approval to a handful of companies evidencing safety. The UK was expected to follow suit, leading the European landscape, but progress has stalled.

While there has been some movement towards a regulatory framework, it’s been slow. In 2022, the UK Government announced that novel food authorisation would fall under the Food Standards Agency (FSA) with the hopes of accelerating the process. But in 2023, the only action has been publishing the FSA’s consultation findings around the novel foods regulatory landscape. Some companies have submitted dossiers to the FSA, but there has been little pace or transparency around next steps. Reform is needed to ensure the regulatory framework is suitable for a sector moving at a pace and that the UK remains competitive. If action continues to flatline, companies will look to scale up their products elsewhere.


After regulation, we anticipate the most complex challenge for the sector to be driving consumer appetite.

In 2022, two-thirds of the UK were reluctant to eat cultured meats. 42% said nothing would convince them to try it, but 27% could be persuaded if they knew it was safe to eat, and 23% if they could trust that it was properly regulated.

Unpicking this further, Stonehaven has taken a deeper look at the spectrum of potential consumers: those fully against trying cultured meat (‘anti’), those who need more effort to be convinced (‘cool’), those who might be convinced either way (‘neutral’), those who only need some convincing (‘warm’) and those already convinced (‘pro’). The breakdown of this is displayed below:

As expected, the primary drivers for uptake across all groups were taste, convenience, and cost. But accompanying this were some interesting emotional drivers that companies could tap into.

  1. Over 60% of consumers are against or heavily sceptical of cultured meat (falling into either the ‘anti’ or ‘cool’ groups). Our data suggests that, unlike the warm and pro groups, these consumers are opposed to things they don’t recognise, are more concerned by health, and are less concerned by the climate benefits of cultured meat.
  2. Only 7% of ‘cool’ respondents say they like trying new things
  3. 64% of the ‘anti’ and 55% of the ‘cool’ respondents are unlikely to try cultured meat because of health concerns
  4. 44% of the ‘pro’ group mention the climate benefits of cultured meat as a reason for their interest, but this drops to just 21% for the ‘cold’ group and 19% for the ‘anti’ group.


Fundamentally, consumers in the ‘cool’ and ‘anti’ groups want reassurance and continuity. It is not about making cultured meat something exciting and novel to these buyers. Novel can be scary. To these sceptics, it’s about educating consumers that it is the same as meat they’ve eaten before, just with additional benefits. For lab-grown meat developers, ensuring they’re prioritising educating consumers, even before their products come to market, has the potential to have the biggest impact towards winning consumers who are still on the fence and convincing those still opposed.

The cultured meat sector holds the potential to add genuine impact and innovation to our food system. Unlocking this opportunity means companies working with the Government to get the right regulation in place and ensuring their marketing and accompanying education demonstrates cultured meat isn’t new but an evolution of what’s already available to consumers.

Get in touch with us via the Contact Us page on this website to find out more.

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