Replacing meat, an easy feat? The role of strategic categorizing in the rise of meat substitutes

Marjolein Hoogstraaten*, Koen Frenken, Taneli Vaskelainen, Wouter Boon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study investigates categories and categorization strategies in the transition towards sustainable diets. We look at the rise of meat substitutes and understand the meat substitute category as a hybrid one, covering products that are to replace meat while implicitly appealing to vegetarian/vegan diets. The category is negatively defined, solely and explicitly indicating the product to be substituted. The category's fuzzy nature presents an innovation challenge for producers. We investigate the strategies of nine Dutch meat substitute producers that seek to resemble meat along five dimensions. We conclude that by privileging meat resemblance innovation strategies, most producers tend to ‘fit and conform’ to the meat regime, largely copying dominant production and consumption practices. However, we also show that, as a hybrid category that is negatively defined, the meat substitute category provides opportunities for more radical innovations that have the potential to ‘stretch and transform’ the regime in the longer run.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100703
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Categories
  • Meat substitutes
  • Niche-regime patterns
  • Strategic categorization
  • Transition studies


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