How alt-protein brands are shifting marketing strategies to keep up with consumer behaviors
“Taste is table stakes, and then everything else comes along with it,” said Peter Lee, VP of marketing for cellular meat company Believer Meats. “The faster that we can scale to get to a price point that the general consumer base can afford [and] make the educational piece familiar to them, the quicker that we can grow our category and industry.”
Brands refocus mission, message to attract consumers
When it came to the massive adoption of alt protein products during the COVID pandemic, some brands lost a sense of their overall marketing message and how they resonate with consumers due to the attention in the category, Lee said.
“Brands, I think, for a while were even a little confused [on] what they should stand for,” Lee said. “It was just the sort of generic message of ‘Oh, this is just like a burger,’ and so people ... maybe didn't connect with the brand, and it just sort of tapered from there from a repeat purchase perspective.”
Now, as the alt protein industry adjusts to a new reality, many brands are “going back to classical marketing” to retain loyal customers while attracting new ones. They are segmenting the market, understanding the target consumer, and how that can be applied for product development, Lee said.
One way brands can drive awareness is through promotions, said Lucia Caamano, director of marketing and innovation for mycoprotein-based product manufacturer Quorn Foods. For instance, “bringing in those consumers with a high-value offer like a free product or a BOGO is a great way to drive traffic within the category,” she added.
“We try to incentivize our core value to consumers that are continuously coming back to the brand. But of course, you also want to tell the story that you're helping grow the categories so targeting through loyal consumer data ... and expanding to adjacent plant-based categories.”
Messaging for flexitarian, health-conscious consumer
While vegans and vegetarians make up a large portion of plant-based and alt protein sales, the industry is finding growth among flexitarians and those who still eat animal-based meat, Caamano said. In a global survey of more than 11,900 consumers, food ingredients company BENEO and Insites Consulting found that 25% of consumers identified as flexitarians as opposed to only 7% for vegetarians and vegans.
"While we're focusing on not alienating our vegan and vegetarian loyal consumers, and that's where we get the most repeat purchase, we absolutely have opened up and cast a wider net to that flexitarian audience, and that's really brought in a lot of new drivers as well as barriers."
And as brands look to invite more people into the plant-based and alt protein category, brands will also have to reconcile with the fact that many consumers simply like eating meat, Caamano said.
"We have such an emotional connection with meat,” Caamano said. “At Quorn, we really like to talk about it as another option on the table, not necessarily a trade-out or preaching that you should eat less necessarily. It's just another great food option on the table."