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Strategies to shift our population to a more plant-based diet: consumer considerations

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Dr A Nugent, Prof M Dean  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Consumer shift to a more plant-based diet

Significant transformations to our current food system are needed if we are to feed the rapidly expanding global population whilst maintaining planetary health. Within the UK/Ireland, there is an urgent need to diversify foods consumed, particularly those contributing to our populations’ protein intake. Any such change must be sustainable and consider dietary intakes and considerations for producers, other supply chain participants as well as consumers. National food surveys for Ireland describe broadly adequate mean intakes of protein (~18% energy/day). Intakes are highest in 18-35 year olds, typically consumed at dinner and lunch and are mainly animal-based (63% of protein) rather than plant based proteins (37% protein). In contrast, dietary recommendations advocate a shift toward inclusion of more plant protein (e.g. legumes, nuts) and setting upper guidance values for red meat as part of sustainable diets. While reduced risk of certain chronic diseases has been attributed to reduced meat intake, it is recognised that plant protein sources may be unequal: some associated with more healthy diets than others. Currently, grains are the most widely consumed plant-based protein. However, market data suggests increases in other sources e.g. pea, rapeseed and lupin to match increasing popularity of plant-based diets, leading to opportunities for new and diversified products. Previous research has shown that when ‘new’ foods are introduced onto the market the level of acceptance depends on different factors: such as the country, the base product (staple, or hedonistic) and the processes involved (e.g. fortification, fermentation), as well the perceived level of need of the individual. Sensory, physiological, and social factors are involved. Consumer research has also shown that food consumption is habitual and routine and changing food choice behaviours is notoriously difficult. Therefore, the introduction of diversified and diversified protein food sources implicates that consumer needs and perceptions need to be identified from the beginning.

Aim: This PhD will holistically examine the impact of shifting to a more plant based diet, including the introduction of diversified protein food sources and associated consumer needs and perception surrounding ‘new’ and alternative sources.

Objectives: • Critically review literature surrounding consumer understanding/perceptions/acceptance/barriers and facilitators to the adoption of alternative, healthy, sustainable traceable products/processes/diets. • Explore consumer views/perceptions and barriers to alternative protein food products/processes/diets • Co-create solutions to facilitate uptake of alternative healthy, sustainable traceable products/processes/diets. • Consumer testing of acceptance and willingness to change/buy alternative healthy, sustainable traceable products/processes/diets. This PhD is linked to DAFM/DAERA funded Protein-I project.

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Duration: 3 years

How to apply: Applications must be submitted via:

Skills/experience required: 1st or 2.1 in Food Science/Health/Psychology or related undergraduate degree.

Note: This project is in competition for DfE funding with a number of other projects. A selection process will determine the strongest candidates across the range of projects, who may then be offered funding for their chosen project.

Funding Notes

Candidates must hold a UK 2.1 Bachelor's degree or qualifications considered to be equivalent by the University.
Candidates must also be normally resident in the UK for the three year period prior to 1 October 2022. For non-EU nationals, the main purpose of residence must not have been to receive full-time education. Non-UK or Irish nationals must also have pre-settled or settled status (EU nationals) or settled status (non-EU nationals).
Full eligibility criteria:
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