Beef but better: What consumers expect of a good plant-based burger

By Lee Jie Ying, senior strategic marketing manager, plant-based, Kerry APMEA; and Catarina Rodrigues, marketing manager, Kerry Australia and New Zealand

Winning in the plant-based burger space in Australia requires finding the right balance of sensory attributes. According to Kerry’s latest research with over 1,500 consumers across four countries — US, UK, Australia and Brazil — to uncover sensory expectations around plant-based burgers, Australians ranked texture as the most important. This is followed by flavour and aftertaste, cooking and cooked appearance, raw appearance, cooked aroma, and lastly, feel.

In Australia, the growing demand for innovation in plant-based burgers is fuelled by flexitarians. As they consume both meat and meat alternatives, flexitarians are unwilling to compromise on flavour and expect plant-based products to deliver authenticity, and will not accept anything that tastes artificial.

When it comes to plant-based burgers, Australians use beef burgers as the benchmark — they want something that can replicate the taste experience of a burger grilled on a BBQ or eaten in a restaurant.  Australian consumers also have higher taste expectations. For example, while bitter plant-based notes were rejected by all the markets researched, Australians were the most sensitive and least accepting of it and other artificial notes.

Meaty firmness with good bite

For Australians, flavour alone is not enough to achieve the ideal plant-based burger taste experience. The texture is the top priority, with 74% of Australian consumers expecting a burger with a meaty firmness to have great texture.

Their decision-making is influenced by what they can feel in a bite. Kerry’s analysis shows that their texture journey begins from the moment they sink their teeth into the patty and break through the outer crisp, to the resistance they feel with each bite, how the patty is broken down to smaller pieces, how the oil and moisture are released, all the way to the clean after-feel in their mouth.

Therefore, they are looking for products with a firm outside from charring, and a soft, succulent inside, which 70% of Australian consumers categorised as “caramelised on the outside and juicy on the inside”. However, it is a delicate balance as they are not in favour of plant-based burgers that are too crispy on the outside and too soft in the middle, as this suggests poor quality. The challenge and opportunity for manufacturers are to achieve a good variation in the bite that can deliver both crisp and succulence.

The full article is available in the latest edition of Food & Beverage Asia August/September 2022 issue. To continue reading, click here.