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Consumers’ perceived barriers to following a plant-based diet

Pasi Pohjolainen (Finland Futures Research Centre, University of Turku, Helsinki, Finland)
Markus Vinnari (Department of Geographical and Historical Studies, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland)
Pekka Jokinen (Department of Geographical and Historical Studies, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 2 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to analyze the barriers perceived by consumers to lowering their meat consumption levels and adopting a plant-based diet, which means a diet that includes mainly non-meat foods, yet it can contain both vegetarian and meat meals.


The prevalence of different barriers for following a plant-based diet is addressed, as well as consumer profiles considering socio-demographics, values and meat consumption frequencies. The data were collected in 2010 by a survey questionnaire, sent to 4,000 randomly selected Finns (response rate=47.3, n=1,890).


Different types of barriers are perceived to hinder the adoption of a plant-based diet, including meat enjoyment, eating routines, health conceptions and difficulties in preparing vegetarian foods. These barriers are strongly correlated, indicating that consumers may not make qualitative difference between different barriers. Furthermore, there are distinct socio-demographic, value and especially meat consumption frequency elements that strengthen the barrier perception, these being male gender, young age, rural residence, household type of families with children, low education, absence of a vegetarian family member or friend, valuation of traditions and wealth and high meat consumption frequency.

Social implications

High meat consumption is related to many environmental and public health problems. The results call for multifaceted policy implications that should concentrate on different barriers and certain socio-demographic, value and meat eating groups. Importantly, focus should be not only on the group with the strongest barrier perception but also on those particularly willing to make changes in their meat consumption patterns. One practical implication could be to increase the availability of vegetarian foods in public cafeterias or school canteens, as a decrease in meat consumption frequency is strongly correlated with the alleviation of the barrier perception.


Information about differences in socio-demographics, values and meat consumption frequencies between consumers provide opportunities for focussing policy actions to aid the adoption of a plant-based diet.



This work was mainly funded by Maj and Tor Nessling foundation, research grant 2013055. The data were collected in the project “Politicised Animals: the Consumer and Farm Animals” (POLLE), research grant 128122, funded by the Academy of Finland. The authors would also like to thank Pekka Räsänen, James Hawdon and Saara Kupsala for their comments on previous versions of this paper and Petri Tapio for assistance in planning the survey questionnaire.


Pohjolainen, P., Vinnari, M. and Jokinen, P. (2015), "Consumers’ perceived barriers to following a plant-based diet", British Food Journal, Vol. 117 No. 3, pp. 1150-1167.



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