Study: S’poreans More Open to Lab-Grown Meat vs. Americans

Is It 'Kiasu' Culture? Singaporeans More Accepting of Lab-Grown Meat vs. US Consumers — Study

Is lab-grown meat the future of food? It just might be. In Asia, the alternative protein industry may be young, but it is thriving and filled with opportunities for innovation. The industry not just includes plant-based meat alternatives, but also lab-grown meat and cell-based milk.

In Singapore, lab-grown meat and plant-based meat continue to grow in popularity, with homegrown alternative protein startups leading the way. The government, for one, offers support to new protein startups to develop frameworks for their products to reach the public. New protein startups are also supported by Big Idea Ventures, a venture capital firm in the city-state whose focus is solely on alternative proteins.

As for consumers, Singaporeans are no strangers to lab-grown meat. In fact, when compared to their American counterparts, Singaporean consumers are considered more accepting of it.

This is according to a recent Singapore Management University study, titled "A cross-country investigation of social image motivation and acceptance of lab-grown meat in Singapore and the United States," that was published in the journal Appetite. The study will be a part of Appetite's 173rd volume this June 1, 2022.

Led by Associate Professor of Communication Management (Practice) Mark Chong and Associate Professor of Psychology Angela Leung along with student Verity Lua, the study surveyed 616 Singaporeans and 759 Americans from July to August 2021.

The motivation behind the study was due to the lack of research surrounding consumer perception and acceptance of lab-grown meat in the city-state despite its promotion as a healthy alternative.

"Lab-grown meat is being promoted as an alternative to conventional meat, which has been linked to a variety of environmental and health risks," Chong said in an SMU release on March 14. "It has been touted as one of the novel food technologies that could help Singapore achieve its '30 by 30' food sustainability goal."

The researchers had three objectives, mainly to compare consumer acceptance of lab-grown meat in the United States and in Singapore; to explain the difference in Americans' and Singaporeans' acceptance of lab-grown meat by examining their eating motivations, specifically social image; and to assess if exposure to information about lab-grown meat communicated by celebrity versus expert social media influencers (SMIs) can impact people's acceptance of lab-grown meat products.

The Role of ‘Kiasu’

The study has shown that Singaporeans have greater acceptance of lab-grown meat compared to Americans.

"The cultural difference was explained by stronger social image eating motivations of Singaporeans," the study said. "This shows that cross-country differences in the motivation to eat for a favourable social image resulted in differences in consumer acceptance of lab-grown meat."

Moreover, the study has shown that the Singaporean cultural trait of "kiasu-ism" may have something to do with consumers' acceptance of eating lab-grown meat. Kiasu is a Hokkien word that roughly translates to fear of losing out or being left behind.

"[Kiasu] may explain Singaporeans' motivation to project an image of being ‘trailblazers’ (vis-a-vis other nationalities) by expressing a higher acceptance of novel foods such as lab-grown meat," the study said.

Lastly, the study has shown that the information about lab-grown meat that was communicated by a celebrity or an SMI expert did not make a difference in the participants' acceptance of lab-grown meat in the U.S. and Singapore.

“Our study suggests that companies can promote consumer acceptance by boosting marketing communication and media coverage of their lab-grown products’ ‘firsts’ (e.g., the first production line in the world, the first technological breakthrough), especially in markets with high social image concerns," said Leung.

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