In 2015, the World Health Organization classified processed meat as carcinogenic to humans. Processed meat is an integral part of the American diet and sausage is the second most consumed type. A significant shift in consumer dietary behavior towards plant-based sausage is therefore necessary. The plant-based industry must address this concern by creating alternative products that can effectively mimic the physical properties of conventional pork Italian sausage. The objective of this study was to measure and compare the physical attributes of seven U.S. commercially available plant-based Italian sausages with four U.S. commercially available conventional pork Italian sausages. The following physical attributes were selected based on their established use in the food science field: cookability, water activity, pH, moisture content, internal color, and external color.
Results of t-tests conducted between pork and plant-based Italian sausage revealed L* internal lightness as the only physical attribute that significantly differed between the two groups (p < 0.05). Plant-based Italian sausage had, on average, a darker internal color than conventional pork sausage. Though L* internal lightness is only one attribute, it could influence consumer acceptance of the plant-based sausage. Before consumers even taste the product, they observe the internal color. The relationship between sausage color and consumer acceptance can be further explored in a future study. Comparing the physical attributes of conventional Italian sausage and plant-based Italian sausage is just the first step in guiding the plant-based industry towards creating the most optimal plant-based sausage. Texture as an additional physical attribute could have a major influence on consumer acceptance of a product. A future sensory test can determine how the texture of sausage affects consumer preferences. The improvement of plant-based sausages has the potential to significantly alter the standard American diet: consumers provided with quality, realistic meat analogues will be further empowered to choose plant-based foods