Skip to main content

Plant-Based Nuggets Out-Perform Animal-Based Nuggets in Blind Taste Test


In a groundbreaking development for the plant-based food industry, NECTAR, a new initiative by the nonprofit Food System Innovations, has conducted extensive sensory panels to assess the quality of plant-based foods. These panels, which consist of large-scale blind taste tests with omnivores, aim to provide a level playing field for the products being evaluated. The results are promising, particularly for plant-based nuggets, which outperformed their animal-based counterparts.

Five Categories Tested

The NECTAR sensory panels evaluated five key categories of plant-based foods: burgers, hot dogs, bacon, tenders, and nuggets. Here are the top five takeaways from the study:

  1. Strong Category Leadership
    Plant-based category leaders demonstrated impressive performance across nearly all categories, with an average of about 50% of participants indicating they “liked” the product. The only exception was the hot dog category, which suggests a significant opportunity for innovation and leadership. This gap presents white space for a category leader to emerge, highlighting the potential for companies to invest in R&D to develop superior plant-based meats to win over customers.
  2. Room For Improvement
    While category leaders performed admirably, the study revealed that average plant-based products lagged significantly behind. This discrepancy indicates that consumer excitement about plant-based foods hinges on product quality. To bridge this gap, more research and development are necessary to elevate the overall standard of plant-based offerings to meet or exceed that of the current category leaders.
  3. Consumers Want “Bolder” Flavor Profiles
    Across all categories, consumers expressed a desire for plant-based meats with bolder flavor profiles. Specifically, they are looking for products that are more meaty, sweet, salty, juicy, smoky, and firm. This feedback provides clear direction for manufacturers aiming to enhance the appeal of their products and capture a larger share of the market.
  4. Nuggets Lead the Pack
    One of the most encouraging findings from the NECTAR study is that average plant-based nuggets outperformed traditional chicken nuggets. This result is a strong indicator of the potential for plant-based meats to gain market share from animal-based products. While there is still room for improvement for these “average” nuggets to achieve category-leader status, the fact that consumers already prefer them to their animal counterparts is a significant win for the plant-based meat industry. It suggests a bright future for plant-based foods as other categories continue to improve.
  5. Blended Products Present an Opportunity
    Blended products, which contain both meat and plant-based ingredients, performed better than 100% plant-based products. These products offer a unique opportunity to cater to consumer preferences for a meatier texture while still promoting the inclusion of plant-based ingredients. This approach can positively impact health, the environment, and animal welfare, making it a promising area for future development.

For more detailed insights, you can access the NECTAR one-pager here: NECTAR One-Pager.

NECTAR LIVE on 7/24!
Join NECTAR on Wednesday, July 24, at 12 pm PT.

We will formally introduce NECTAR and dive deep into the exciting findings of our inaugural report, “Taste of the Industry 2024.” This is an excellent opportunity to get your questions answered live and learn more about the future of plant-based foods. Register here: Webinar Registration.

The NECTAR study underscores the growing consumer acceptance and preference for high-quality plant-based products. As the plant-based market continues to evolve, staying attuned to these trends and consumer preferences will be crucial for buyers in retail and foodservice looking to enhance their business and cater to a more health-conscious and environmentally aware clientele.