Social Norms Support the Protein Transition : The Relevance of Social Norms to Explain Increased Acceptance of Alternative Protein Burgers over 5 Years

Onwezen, Marleen C.; Verain, Muriel C.D.; Dagevos, Hans


Developing alternative protein products—based on protein sources other than regular meat—is a possible pathway to counter environmental and health burdens. However, alternative proteins are not always accepted by consumers, and more research is needed to support a shift to more alternative proteins. Prior studies have mainly focused on individual drivers and perceptions; although we expect that social norms—the perceptions of the opinions of relevant others—are highly relevant in accepting alternative proteins. Online surveys were conducted among 2461 respondents in 2015 and 2000 respondents in 2019 (cross-sectional datasets); a subsample (n = 500) responded to both surveys (longitudinal dataset). We add to the literature by (1) demonstrating the added explanatory value of social norms beyond a range of individual drivers; (2) showing that this finding holds over time, and (3) comparing the impact of social norms across different dietary consumer groups. Meat lovers and flexitarians are more prone to follow social norms whereas meat abstainers are more prone to follow their individual attitudes and values. This study highlights the relevance of investigations beyond personal variables such as personal norms and attitudes and underscores the relevance of considering the social aspects of accepting alternative proteins.