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Plant based food trend

One of the great things about working for food brands is keeping an eye on latest trends and media conversations and this week we’re pulling together thoughts on elements such as veganism, ethical eating, the ‘green £’ and Gen Z and how this is reflected in mainstream brands. And yes, our title is a reference to Pret’s announcement this week that “In response to growing consumer demand for more vegetarian and vegan options on the high street” it is buying its rival EAT and plans to convert as “many of EAT’s shops as possible to “Veggie Prets.”

At the recent FUTR conference which focusses on ‘fresh thinking and progressive change in the future of retail, marketing and commerce’, there was discussion around communicating ‘plant based’ rather than ‘vegan’ and that messages and campaigns should be sub divided for those motivated by the planet and those motivated by health. And when targeting Millennials and Gen Z, the need to see the individuals and sub-tribes within these generational groups was stressed. When it comes to big brands keeping themselves relevant to modern lifestyles, Steve Challouma, Marketing Director at Nomad Foods which owns the Birds Eye, Aunt Bessie’s and Goodfella’s brands presented around Nomad’s innovations including its new Birds Eye Green Cuisine range.

Which brings us on to a great article from The FT Weekend’s Leila Arboud and Emiko Terazono who looked at how ‘Big Food’ brands are following nimble start-ups in the fight for the ‘centre of the plate’ ie protein. In the wake of “once-niche food movements joining the mainstream”, Burger King has partnered with a foodtech start up for example and McDonalds has teamed up with Nestle to get meat free burgers on their menus. The key take aways ? for PR and marketing campaigns centre around neglecting any of the 4 Ps of the marketing mix at your peril:

Product: “The prize will be huge if imitation meat matches adoption levels of milk product alternatives such as soy yoghurt and almond milk” but ‘Big Food’ faces stiff competition from “a new breed of start-ups that have raced ahead to launch plant-based meats they claim look, taste and feel like the real thing. Flush with venture capital funding, they have turned to technology, analysing the molecular structure of foods and seeking to reverse-engineer versions using plant proteins”, say Arboud and Terazono.

Price: The article mentions various brands and outlets which have astounded consumers here in the UK with inflated pricing of vegan products which are relatively cheap to produce. Hot dogs made from seeds with a £14 price tag, cauliflower steaks the same price as the Aberdeen Angus beef version in a restaurant and twice as expensive as a whole cauliflower in a UK food retailer, have all come under scrutiny recently.

Place: “Aside from the quality of the new protein substitutes, how they are marketed will determine whether they become truly mass-market. The positioning of the product in stores influences sales, with new brands such as Beyond Meat pushing to be placed in the meat section rather than separate cabinets alongside the vegetarian and vegan options. 

Promotion: “The new consumer looks at the consequences of consumption and believes that health and beauty come from within,” said one industry veteran. “They’re less convinced by the functional-based arguments that food companies are used to making, like less sugar or fewer calories. This is not the way that consumers used to make decisions so the old guard are flummoxed. Elio Leoni Sceti, whose investment company recently backed NotCo, a Chile-based start-up that uses machine learning to create vegetarian replicas of meat and dairy, believes new brands have an edge on the marketing side because they are not held back by old habits.”  A great piece of advice for any new international brand to bear in mind when looking at the UK market.

The full FT article is definitely worth a read and come in and see us if you’d like to hear our views on this and other foodie trends and debates.