Seeing Green: How Messaging Can Keep Plant-Based Market Momentum Growing

Seeing Green: How Messaging Can Keep Plant-Based Market Momentum Growing

The plant-based meat industry is at an inflection point.

A messaging reset can change the trajectory by reinforcing the mass appeal of plant-based alternatives.

Given improvements to their taste and texture and the growing interest in healthier and environmentally friendly alternatives to animal agriculture, plant-based proteins are sure to flourish and feed the bottom line for manufacturers, retailers and restaurants. 

Despite a dip in demand in 2022, the global market for plant-based meat alternatives is projected to mushroom from $6.7 billion to $35.1 billion by 2032.

“Food-related consumer habits often come and go as fads, but plant-based alternatives are here to stay — and grow,” asserted Jennifer Bartashus, senior consumer staples analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “The expanding set of product options in the plant-based industry is contributing to plant alternatives becoming a long-term option for consumers around the world.”

Rising climate and environmental consciousness, especially among younger consumers who favor companies that align with their values, may be driving demand for a shift away from mass animal production. But in the aftermath of a downturn that saw declining sales at pioneering powerhouse brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, recalibrating messaging to reinforce the mass appeal of plant-based alternatives has become a must.

The Groundwork: Considerations for Plant-Based Communications

Given the evolution of the market, the right messaging could make the difference between wilting and winning in a product category that may seem equal parts promise and pitfalls.

Addressing consumer price sensitivity is a must. As a report from CoBank found, “higher prices have led many prospective return consumers to taper off their purchases. …beyond cost, lingering negative perceptions surrounding taste, value and versatility are also obstacles the category has yet to overcome.”

Ingredient transparency is also key. For nearly 4 in 10 consumers surveyed, the healthiness of plant-based alternatives is a top reason for choosing them. Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and Lightlife have reformulated ingredients to resolve consumer concerns over unhealthy additives and make their products more nutritious.

T.K. Pillan, CEO of the Veggie Grill restaurant chain, believes the plant-based industry needs to reassert the powerful appeal of healthy protein alternatives that are free of cholesterol, hormones and antibiotics. “Regain the narrative by focusing on the amazing benefits of eating plant-powered protein,” he said.

Last but perhaps most important, taste is a determining factor. “The No. 1 reason consumers avoid plant-based dairy is taste,” said Bob Roe, vice president of narrative development at Sozo Ventures, which has led funding for plant-based dairy company Eclipse Foods.

Roe pointed to the 70% of the world’s population who are lactose intolerant. “Eclipse is positioned to completely transform the dairy industry with its proprietary plant-based dairy platform.”

Plant Food for Thought: Key Takeaways

The recipe for success in promoting plant-based alternatives has many ingredients. Here are a few key takeaways to add to the mix:

  • Emphasize innovation around taste, texture and mouthfeel and the product’s ability to replicate the experience of traditional dairy or meat.
  • Double-down on sustainability messaging, reinforcing the ethical and environmental advantages of plant-based food production.
  • Offer in-store samples as a first taste of flavor experiences. Last year, Impossible Foods treated consumers to its new hot dogs at a New York City pop-up.
  • Provide easy-to-follow recipes to show versatility and inspire culinary exploration.
  • Expand range with appeals to consumers who eat meat but may try protein alternatives for nutrition, sustainability or just out of curiosity. Impossible Foods is rolling out bold new red packaging that visually conveys the meat-like craveability of its products.
  • Obtain certifications to validate nutritional claims. Impossible Foods’ Beef Lite is certified by the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check Food certification program, and Beyond Meat’s new products are recognized by the American Diabetes Association’s Better Choices for Life Program.
  • Address quality concerns with clean-label offerings that appeal to the interest for healthier plant-based products. Impossible Beef packaging now specifies that the product contains 19 grams of protein and 33% less saturated fat than 80/20 ground beef.

Plant-based brands and manufacturers are poised to reap a harvest of profits, provided they navigate the changing landscape with strategic guidance from an informed marketing perspective. Contact us at The Food Group anytime to learn more about our experience in the alternative protein space.

For more insights into the plant-based industry, read Plant-Based Dairy Landscape & Opportunities and Hungry Horizons: Tracking Trend Forecasts for 2024.

Topics: Marketing & Communications, Health & Wellness


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