Cultivated icon Cultivated
Fermentation icon Fermentation
Plant-based icon Plant-Based

Plant-based category marketing

Interest in plant-based products is growing, but many consumers still express skepticism about plant protein foods, or simply lack familiarity with the category. Category marketing campaigns to promote plant-based and alt protein products, independent of specific brands, can engender familiarity and showcase recent innovations. Campaigns can emphasize flavor, convenience, familiarity, nutrition, and other positive attributes. Category marketing can help expand existing markets, increase demand, and promote alternative proteins for new markets and use cases.

Production platform
  • Cultivated icon Cultivated
  • Fermentation icon Fermentation
  • Plant-based icon Plant-Based
Solution category
  • Commercial
  • Ecosystem
  • Policy
Value chain segment
  • Demand Generation
  • Distribution Channels
  • End Products
Relevant actor
  • Industry
  • Donors
  • NGO’s
  • Policymakers
  • Startups

Current challenge

Many consumers express explicit interest in plant proteins on surveys, indicating that eating more plant-based foods is a widespread aspiration. Health and nutritional concerns are often cited as a top motivator to consume more plant proteins and reduce animal protein consumption. However, purchase behavior does not always reflect this aspiration, in part due to many preconceived notions that consumers have about plant-based foods. The most commonly cited barriers to plant-based meat adoption include negative perceptions of taste, higher prices, lack of convenience, lack of accessibility, focus on particular ingredients of concern such as sodium, lack of social support, lack of familiarity, the lack of a versatile set of products, and the perception that plant-based products do not have as high of protein quality as animal protein foods and are not as satiating.

Proposed solution

Resource development and educational campaigns ideally ought to be led by effective organizations with high levels of reputational capital. Category marketing campaigns will be more successful if they can attract the support of media, political, religious, and other socio-cultural institutions. There would be particular benefit from working with influencers such as nutrition professionals, governmental food regulators, consumer groups, environmental and public health groups, and athletes.

The focus should be on creating an inclusive narrative that encourages the expansion of plant protein consumption and addresses perceived barriers, without being tied to offputting ideologies or niche dietary patterns.

Many consumers maintain their aspirations to reduce animal protein consumption and increase their alt protein consumption due to their perceived health and sustainability advantages. While other drivers such as taste, price, convenience, familiarity, and accessibility are more important, it is important to maintain adequate recognition of the health and sustainability advantages on the part of consumers, the food industry, governments, nonprofits, media, and other social institutions in order to ensure continued growth in demand, support for the industry’s development, and to counter misinformation.

Anticipated impact

Most consumer promotion of the benefits of plant-based and alternative protein foods is and should be led by individual brands, but there are still benefits that would accrue from non-branded consumer education. Category marketing campaigns and educational resources — websites, documentaries, workshops, and thought leadership —  could help overcome the barriers that consumers and food industry insiders may have to alternative protein product trials and long-term adoption. Increasing demand and helping alternative proteins expand into as many food & beverage occasions as possible will help reduce barriers to entry for startups and established food companies who launch alternative protein product lines. Category marketing can also ensure the perpetuation of positive consumer perceptions of alternative proteins.

Many nonprofit and governmental programs such as the US checkoff programs engage in campaigns and resource creation to support a particular commodity or product. In the US, category promotional efforts such as “Pork. The Other White Meat”, “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner”, and “Milk: It Does a Body Good” are among the most successful marketing campaigns of all time. Comparatively little investment has been made in non-animal food marketing campaigns.

Additional resources:

GFI resources

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