The world is shifting towards plant-based eating. Until recently, diets excluding meats were viewed as more of a fad; meat-free food options were neither readily available nor very appetizing. It is all changing now though, with plant-based foods occupying a place in the food industry. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Plant-based is the new Organic.
Data from Google Trends shows that there has been a substantial spike in the global interest in plant-based foods from 2004 to 2018. Further, as per a research by Mintel, 1 out of every 4 consumers reduced their meat consumption in 2017 and a fair number of those who haven’t yet are interested in doing so. It is no surprise then that Walmart is asking its suppliers to offer more plant-based products and McDonalds in Europe has launched a vegan burger to meet the growing demand for plant-based food! The point is that the demand for plant-based foods is a huge opportunity for brands to capitalize on. How can the food industry adapt?
For starters, marketers should focus on presenting their products as delicious, rather than highlighting that they are vegetarian. Use of words such as ‘vegan’, ‘vegetarian’ etc. can limit the product’s appeal amongst consumers. Not just these words, but those such as ‘meat-free’ and ‘alternative’ too can turn them off and give them the feeling of being short-changed. On the other hand, use of indulgent language is more effective in appealing to consumers. Case in point, the owner of Sydney’s thriving plant-based burger joint Soul Burger was quoted as saying, “We’re careful to not lump plant-based eating with ‘organic’, ‘healthy’, ‘raw’ buzz words and instead will discuss it as ‘satiating’, ‘flavour’, ‘satisfying’ and ‘gratifying’.”
UK-based meat alternatives brand, Quorn has been all about appealing to consumers by propagating their products’ health attributes. However, this trend has made them rethink their brand. Instead of marketing themselves as an alternate brand, they are now positioning themselves as one that offers “good food that fits people’s lifestyles”. In line with this transition, the branding and marketing efforts have been modified as well. The orange packaging has been replaced with a warmer design and the television advertising is highlighting the versatility of the products rather than its vegetarian ingredients.
Consumers today want everything – they are looking to indulge but without any guilt. They expect products that convince them that meat-free can be as indulgent and appealing as meat and offer desirable benefits as well. In line with this, manufacturers need to offer products that provide an inclusive indulgent experience. At the same time they need to make sure they market these using words that highlight the foods’ benefits yet evoke a desire to consume them. For instance, UK based chocolate brand, Divine launched a Chocolate and Mint, dairy-free Easter egg this year to appeal to the new-age demand for plant-based treats.
Time will tell whether plant-based eating will rise or decline. For all we know, this could be the future of food.