Can Vegan Food Shed Its “Feminine” Image to Attract Men? New Research Explores.

by Ella

Many experts tout the health and sustainability benefits of plant-based diets, but deep-rooted cultural stereotypes, particularly those related to gender, pose significant obstacles to reducing meat consumption, especially among men.

A recent study published in the research journal Frontiers in Communication delves into these challenges and examines the potential of marketing to change perceptions of plant-based foods, potentially encouraging more men to embrace this dietary shift.


The Link Between Meat, Masculinity, and Stereotypes


Traditional associations between meat consumption, strength, and masculinity have often pigeonholed plant-based diets as more suitable for women than men. A study published in the journal Sex Roles found that men identifying as more masculine were less likely to reduce their meat consumption or consider veganism. In contrast, women often express greater concern for animal welfare, motivating their adoption of vegan or vegetarian diets.


Shifting Perceptions


Recent surveys suggest that vegetarianism is no longer seen as unsuitable for men, though veganism still carries a perception of being less masculine. Despite changing attitudes, men frequently prioritize choices that align with their gender identity, resulting in continued high meat consumption among males.

Alma Scholz, who led the research at the University of Würzburg and is now affiliated with Stockholm University, suggests that altering the presentation and marketing of vegan food could be a potential solution. By framing vegan food in a more masculine light, men may be more inclined to embrace it, reducing resistance to dietary changes.

Examining the Impact of Marketing

Scholz and her colleague, Jan Lenhart, PhD, from the University of Bamberg, conducted a study to investigate whether changing the marketing of vegan foods could influence men’s perceptions and preferences. Participants were provided with descriptions of various dishes, which included words traditionally associated with the dishes as well as those linked to “masculine” foods. Participants then rated the dishes and assessed their suitability for both men and women.

The study revealed that women participants were more likely to follow a vegan diet and held a more favorable view of veganism compared to men. Ethical and health reasons were the most common motivations for adopting a vegan diet. Importantly, participants acquainted with vegans tended to exhibit a more positive attitude toward meat-free dishes.

Altering Perceptions

Interestingly, the preference for vegan dishes among men did not significantly change with the altered descriptions provided. However, the altered descriptions succeeded in changing the perception of these dishes. They were seen as less feminine and more neutral, potentially making it easier for men to embrace them without compromising their masculinity.

Long-Term Interventions Needed

While the study provides valuable insights, the researchers emphasize that a short-term intervention alone may not be sufficient to bring about significant changes in dietary choices. Long-term interventions may be more effective in shifting men’s liking for vegan dishes and are worth further exploration.

Challenging Gender Stereotypes in Food Choices

This study highlights the enduring influence of gender stereotypes on dietary choices and the potential for marketing to reshape these perceptions. Encouraging men to embrace plant-based diets is becoming increasingly crucial as the world seeks more sustainable food choices. Future research may shed more light on the effectiveness of long-term interventions in altering men’s preferences and fostering a more sustainable and equitable food culture.



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