- Consumers are open to food made through precision fermentation, a study Hartman Group conducted in partnership with Cargill and Perfect Day found. Even when adults are not familiar with precision fermentation and don’t see a description of what it means, 41% would purchase a product made through that method. That likelihood doubles to 80% among adults who are familiar with the technology and see a description on product packaging.
- Whether products made through precision fermentation are safe is a little more important to consumers than whether they taste good. Three out of five consumers rank safety as their top concern. Taste is important — 52% said products made through precision fermentation would need to have a superior taste for them to consume them on a regular basis.
- Many companies use precision fermentation to create ingredients that are starting to come to the market. Other studies have found that consumers are willing to eat food made through the technological method if they know more about what it is and why it is done.
Many precision fermentation companies are moving beyond the experimentation phase to reach a scale and expertise level to make ingredients for food manufacturers. Perfect Day, one of the partners on this research, includes its animal-free dairy ingredients in products including milk beverages, cream cheese, ice cream and chocolate bars.
Unlike other ingredients that are considered alternative proteins, those made through precision fermentation are the same thing as the item they would be replacing. Precision fermentation uses biotechnology to re-engineer common microbes, such as yeast, to produce a protein or substance that is identical to those generally found in foods, such as eggs, dairy or sweeteners, when fermented. The Good Food Institute describes precision fermentation as a way to make microbes behave as “cell factories” that make a large quantity of something new.
Though it sounds like a highly scientific way of making food, studies have shown that consumers are open to the possibilities as long as they have some education about the products and the methods by which they are produced. Consumers are becoming more aware of the strain the food system brings to the environment and are more willing to do something about it, the Hartman Group study found.
Nearly seven in 10 people said society needs to find ways to meet nutritional needs and use fewer resources, while 61% said science and technology are the best hope to address climate change.
While precision fermentation has been used for years — it’s how most rennet used to make cheese has been produced for more than two decades — many of today’s startups using the process were created out of concern for the environment and the need for more sustainable ways to make food. According to a third-party life cycle assessment of Perfect Day’s animal free whey protein, it uses between 96% and 99% less water to produce than traditional whey, and uses 29% to 60% less non-renewable energy.
When consumers were given education about the environmental benefits of products made through precision fermentation, purchase intent rose about 30% for both a product that normally comes from animals and stevia made through precision fermentation.
The study results came from a November online survey of 2,519 U.S. adults.
Companies using precision fermentation should try to communicate their stories as well as showcase the taste and nutritional quality of their products. Last month, nine leaders in the space formed the Precision Fermentation Alliance, a trade group that promotes understanding and transparency of the technology. A unified message can go far to more consumer education.