Meat substitudes

Meat substitutes can be better liked with repeated exposure

My husband and I decided to make a meatless meal at least once a week, but for some reason, we keep forgetting this resolution. If we manage to meat our goal, it’s completely accidental. (Meet. I mean meet!)

Other people would also like to eat less meat. They have the advantage of having a memory – but well, they are unsure of tofu. The great news is all may not be lost.

Annet Hoek and her collegues1 tested whether eating meat substitutes over and over again would result in a preference for the substitute (this is known as the “mere exposure effect”; click on the link if you’d like more info). Although a person could develop a love of tofu after repeated exposure, the person could also turn to hating it (“product boredom”), or nada could happen. So can people’s liking of meat substitutes be increased with repeated exposure?

Quorn Chicken Pieces

The researchers used tofu and Quorn chicken pieces as the meat substitutes and chicken fillets for the comparison meat product. Tofu is pretty well established in the North American market, and people generally know it’s a meat substitute derived from soy beans. Now, Quorn is another story. I live in Canada and couldn’t remember seeing Quorn in the supermarket. I had no idea what this thing called “Quorn” was. As it turns out, it’s a company that produces meat substitutes from a fungus. The meat-like products look much better than that last sentence made them sound.

For the experiment, testing was done in-home. Twice a week for 10 weeks, each participant would saunter over to the lab and pick-up lightly seasoned tofu, Quorn chicken stir-fry pieces, or precooked chicken fillets. (Each person always picked up the same thing.) At home, the participants would stir fry the tofu, Quorn, or chicken for five minutes and subsequently eat it with sides of their choice. After dinner, they’d relax with a questionnaire regarding their meal.

The results showed that 55% of the people who ate tofu better liked the food over time. In contrast, 37% of the individuals who ate Quorn showed an increase in liking for it with time. Now, only 18% of the people who ate chicken demonstrated an increase in liking for chicken over time. In fact a good portion started to dislike the chicken.

Some people’s liking of tofu and to some extent Quorn can be increased by repeated munching of the product. This study suggests that the mere-exposure effect is alive and well with meat-substitutes – for a segment of the population. Now, repeatedly eating chicken is another story. It seems that eating chicken 20 times in 10 weeks is not a good idea.




1 Elzerman, J. E., Hageman, R., Kok, F. J., Luning, P. A., & Graaf, C. d. (2013). Are meat substitutes liked better over time? A repeated in-home use test with meat substitutes or meat in meals. Food Quality and Preference, 28, 253-263.

Picture Attribution

Tofu: Wikimedia Commons

Quorn Chicken: Facebook