Increasing the proportion of plant-based foods available to shift social consumption norms and food choice among non-vegetarians

Raghoebar, Sanne; Kleef, Ellen Van; Vet, Emely De


Increasing the relative availability of plant-based (versus animal source) foods seems promising in shifting consumption, but it remains unknown how and under what circumstances this happens. We performed two availability manipulations including different foods. The impact on food choice, social norm perceptions about what others do (descriptive) or approve of (injunctive), and salience was assessed. Non-vegetarian participants were visually (Study 1, n = 184) or physically (Study 2, n = 276) exposed to (a) four plant-based and two animal source foods or (b) vice versa. Participants chose one food item, either hypothetically (Study 1) or actually (Study 2), and reported the perceived social norms and salience of plant-based and animal source foods. The results showed no direct effects on food choice, injunctive norms, or salience. An increased proportion of plant-based (versus animal source) foods was interpreted in Study 1 as plant-based foods being less often chosen by others, whereas in Study 2, these foods were interpreted as being more often chosen (marginally significant), while animal source foods were interpreted as being less often chosen. The results suggest that a higher availability of plant-based foods influences descriptive norms, but future research should examine aspects potentially contributing to the contradictory normative interpretations (e.g., norm salience).