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Last month I participated at the 2019 AAEA Annual Meeting Program which took place on July 21-23 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta. I was also an attendance at the AAEA Early Career Mentoring Workshop which was held in the following two days of the event. 

This event gives researchers and experts to present original contributions to new developments in agricultural economics and emerging food trends. Especially talks about consumer behavior, food policy-making and business development were also addressed. 

I also had the opportunity to present the preliminary results of my MarieCurie Project “CONSUMEHealth” in an invited session titled “Novel Experimental Approaches Exploring Factors Influencing Consumer Choices of Healthier Food Options”. This session was designed to focus on the latest developments in the experimental approaches investigating consumer choices of healthier food options. The overall focus of the session was how novel experimental approaches can help in exploring the determinants of healthier food consumption. This session was devoted to the discussion of the following three main topics: (1) a meal-based experimental approach, where consumer demand is elicited through a novel experimental setting; (2) consumer acceptance of burgers with substituted meat under different information scenarios; and (3) the influence of dynamic feedback on fast food choices.  

The abstract of my presentation covered the plant-forward dining trend has become popular among dining halls across US colleges to increase students’ vegetable intake. Many chefs (e.g. in Harvard, Cornell) start introducing plant-meat blend burger in which 40% of beef meat is substituted with mushrooms. This blend burger was first developed in 2014 and then become its appearance in many college dining halls. Mushroom is a healthier alternative to reduce sodium intake of the traditional meat without a significant change in consumer’s taste acceptance. This is because mushrooms have flavor-enhancing properties because of the nonessential amino and glutamic acids which are often associated with the umami taste. Umami could produce savory, brothy, rich, or meaty taste sensation and therefore could mitigate the reduction of the sensory effects and sodium. Additionally, mushrooms are high in protein, carbohydrate, and dietary fiber and low in fat.

Recent studies focused only on the sensory perspective of the beef-mushroom burger. However, limited is known about consumers perception, preference, and purchase intention of this blended burger. To fill this gap, a between-subject experiment was designed to investigate this question using college students who had voluntarily chose mushroom-beef burgers in a dining hall setting. The results have implications on how to positively influence consumers’ attitude, behavior and re-consume intention.