A reversal of defaults: Implementing a menu-based default nudge to promote out-of-home consumer adoption of plant-based meat alternatives

Taufik, Danny; Bouwman, Emily P.; Reinders, Machiel J.; Dagevos, Hans


Restaurants are characterized by high levels of meat being consumed in this out-of-home setting, while plant-based meat alternatives remain a niche product, thus preserving a high environmental impact of food consumption. We tested whether subtly re-designing the restaurant menu, so that plant-based meat alternatives were perceived as the default to a greater extent, increased consumer selection of plant-based meat alternatives. Consumers' freedom of choice was preserved by leaving all choice options on the menu. An online experiment in The Netherlands showed that consumers choose plant-based meat alternatives more often relative to meat when the plant-based option is framed as the default. In a field experiment in a Dutch restaurant, we found that the amount of ordered plant-based meat alternative dishes substantially increased relative to an equivalent meat dish when implementing a default nudge (bean alternative: from 8.6% to 80.0%; seaweed alternative: from 16.1% to 58.3%). Thus, re-designing the menu in a way that suggests that plant-based meat alternatives are the default, while preserving autonomous decision-making, is a promising route to promote out-of-home adoption of plant-based meat alternatives in restaurants.