Exploring the Future of Plant-Based Fermented Foods: Insights from European Consumers

by Ella

Researchers at Umeå University have conducted a pioneering consumer study focused on plant-based fermentation and its potential to drive dietary shifts towards health and sustainability goals across Europe.

The Study Overview

The study surveyed 7,800 consumers across nine European countries to gauge preferences and attitudes towards plant-based fermented foods. Part of the HealthFerm project, the research aims to develop plant-based fermented foods that offer broad health benefits.


Consumer Insights

Professor Armando Perez-Cueto, leading HealthFerm’s Consumer Studies, highlights a notable shift among omnivores, with approximately 27% adopting flexitarian eating habits without identifying as such. This trend suggests a growing normalization of reduced meat consumption in European diets.


Role of Plant-Based Fermentation

The majority of respondents view fermented plant-based foods as pivotal in facilitating dietary transitions. The study explored sensory preferences, revealing specific consumer likes and dislikes across various fermented products. Preferences included:


Yogurt and Drinkable Yogurt: Consumers prefer white, creamy textures with sweetness and uniformity, without artificial flavors.


Chicken Alternatives: Key attributes include smooth texture, natural appearance, chicken-like aroma, and tender consistency.

Protein-Enriched Breads: Preferred qualities include small air bubbles, cohesive texture, toasted nutty aromas, and a crispy yet soft mouthfeel.

Market Potential and Consumer Expectations

The research underscores significant market potential for fermented plant-based foods. Consumer responses indicated a preference for pricing comparable to animal-based counterparts rather than lower prices. There is also high willingness to try products from various fermentation techniques, with traditional methods being most accepted, followed by precision and biomass fermentation.

Challenges and Opportunities

While taste preferences drive dietary choices, health and animal welfare considerations follow closely. Challenges to wider adoption of plant-based and fermented foods include perceived discomfort, satiety concerns, taste issues, and unfamiliarity with these products.

Future Directions

The study’s findings offer valuable insights for companies, policymakers, and practitioners aiming to develop and promote innovative plant-based fermentations across diverse European consumer segments. It highlights the importance of effective communication and product positioning to encourage broader acceptance and adoption.

In conclusion, the research by Umeå University’s HealthFerm project sets a foundation for advancing sustainable dietary practices through appealing and nutritionally beneficial plant-based fermented foods.



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