Are Plant-based Brands Perfect for Meat Eaters?

Today, only 3 percent of Americans identify as vegans, and only 5 percent identify as vegetarian. That means in order for marketers to expand their plant-based brand to a mass audience, they need to figure out a way to appeal to the other 300 million Americans. That’s A LOT of opportunities-if you can get it right.

So why not think about plant-based for meat eaters? Sounds like an oxymoron, but plant-based foods can (and probably should) be for everyone in some way. Even if you’re not a vegetarian, it’s very possible to enjoy plant-based products and probably help save the environment along the way.

Plant-based food marketers have already been winning over some meat eaters by touting their health and environmental benefits. According to researchers at Harvard, following a plant-based diet is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower bad cholesterol, and reduced risk of diabetes. And we also know about 25 percent of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions come from food production and associated land-use change. So here is a really compelling statistic: If the average person on Earth swapped out just 30 percent of the meat they eat in favor of plant-based options, we could achieve half the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions necessary to stop the damage that is occurring from climate change.

Translation: There is an awful lot of talk about purpose-driven brands appealing to Millennials and Gen Z. And I’m quite certain there are plenty of them who think the environment is a worthy cause.

But for those who aren’t quite as tapped in, a recent study from the World Resources Institute’s Better Buying Lab shows that just changing the way you talk about your products might be enough. Guess what they are saying? It’s all in the marketing. That means there’s a lot of opportunity beyond the 5% of the population for your plant-based brand-if you market it right. In some cases, instead of calling your plant-based snack a low carb vegetable-based snack (translation: not as tasty), you could just call it a salty, tasty chip. Both are still true, and to most consumers, the second one just sounds better. If you really think about it, even the term “plant-based” is a marketing play. When consumers were asked which offers more for me, 100% plant-based or vegan? 76% said 100 percent plant-based, while only 24 percent said vegan. And when asked which tastes better, 73 percent said 100% plant-based, while only 27% said vegan. We know 100% plant-based and vegan are actually the same things. But figuring out what consumers will respond to at any given moment is actually the magic of what we do.

One brand who is already doing it is Impossible Foods. Their burgers even have the “flavor, aroma, and beefiness of meat from cows”, but they’re all plants. They believe that meat eaters like meat, not necessarily all of the stuff that goes into making the meat like cattle ranching and deforestation. That means these consumers might be open to consuming the food they love in a different way. They make meat for meat eaters using plants so that we can “eat all the meat we want for as long as we want”. The burgers are now available in 5,000 restaurants and coming to grocery stores this year. You can check it out in one of my favorite restaurant brands, David Chang’s Momofuku.

We know even niche brands can have mass appeal if they are talking to the right people in the right way.  Think about how the “skater” brand, Vans wound up being a complete lifestyle brand.

So if you’re a plant-based brand feeling like there’s only so much that you can grow, think again. We can help you find the right message to broaden your audience. The key is staying true and authentic to your brand while you do it. Let’s talk.

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