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One expert’s advice for ‘best practice’ plant-based marketing [Interview]

Article-One expert’s advice for ‘best practice’ plant-based marketing [Interview]

Plant-based brands should focus on taste and emotional experiences rather than an ideological belief in plant-based as this is what most consumers expect from food – but it also depends on which consumer segments you are targeting, says marketing expert Aurore de Monclin.

The Fi Global webinar, Who will be tomorrow's winners in plant-based?, held on 24 January will highlight the strategies plant-based brands must deploy in order to stay relevant in a fast-evolving category.

Attendees can expect two expert presentations and a live Q&A discussion in this webinar day brought to you by Fi Global Insights as part of the Fi Global Webinar Series and with the support of our content partner, the Healthy Marketing Team.

We caught up with Aurore de Monclin, head of consulting at the Healthy Marketing Team ahead of the online event to find out more.

Do you have an example of a plant-based food brand or product that you consider to be successful?

“Plant-based makes us rethink of the whole food system. Nowadays, the activist consumers are also taking into account where the product comes from, how it is sourced and produced, which communities it affects, and overall economic, environmental, and social impact.

“Recently, we worked with WhatIF Foods, they are Oatly generation two; they have been revisiting the whole value chain to offer a food range that come from a naturally nutritious source, which doesn’t deplete the soil and empowers the local farmers. They are driving the ‘ReGeneration’ movement.

“To engage with a broader audience, there is need for players [to] focus on taste and the emotional experience rather than the belief in plant-based as this is primarily what consumers expect from food.

“Temple of Seitan is offering traditional fast-food and comforting foods and cherishing the emotional connection to food. They are cooking for people who want the nostalgic group eating experiences and family get together.”

Sometimes the biggest learnings come from mistakes. Do you have any examples of pitfalls or ‘what-not-to-do’ in the field of plant-based food marketing?

“It is important to understand who your consumer target is. For example, the mass-market consumers don’t want to hear about the political views of an activist brand. They want a solution in their day that is helping them by giving a clear health benefit, saving them some time, and has a good taste.

“We also see vegan activists being completely against products that are mimicking animal products or being too realistic. If you talk to a vegan activist, they will not reach for a Vegan Zeastar product – a prawn alternative – as they don’t want to be seen eating something that resemble to an animal product.

“What we see quite often is brands that are on the fence, not quite for vegan activists and neither appealing to the early mass consumers, or flexitarians.

“Above all, it is very important to not over-promise on taste, texture for the mass-market consumers. We see too many meat alternative brands claiming that they are the same even better as the current meat offers, which may set the wrong expectations.

“That’s why offering a semi-finished product with the right spice blend, sauce etc could be a smart way of taking the consumer by the hand to show how existing cooking can evolve. Working closely with vegan chefs and focusing on restaurant channels to educate consumers is key.”

The dairy alternative category is quite a crowded space, particularly for alternative drinking milks. Are there still opportunities to innovate in this category?

“There is still room to penetrate the mass market with products that are an easy swap – meaning they can be used in many traditional occasions: in my coffee, on top of my cereals, etc.

“We see that consumers are more demanding on the list of ingredients and nutritional value of the existing products [so] recipe improvement on sugar, protein and fat content. Oatly is starting to fall behind as sugar is first on the ingredient list.

“There is still room for new less well-known ingredients proving to bring new benefits either more sustainable, nutrient-pack or allergen-free, such as Dug, a potato milk [brand], and WhatIF Foods, a Bambara groundnut milk brand.

“However, you have to remember that consumers buy benefits not ingredient, therefore the communication needs to be on the benefit of these new ingredients.”

Could the advent of cell-cultured meat and precision fermentation make plant-based products irrelevant in the future?

“The race is on for who [...] will be able to deliver an alternative that contains the right nutrients, the right taste and texture, is environmentally friendly and at an affordable price, [whether it be] from the natural route or the foodtech route.

“We believe the more educated health-conscious consumers are warming up to the idea of cell-cultured meat and precision fermentation. Cell-cultured and precision fermentation seem to be able to offer the best mimicking of animal products without the animal. It is a simple story that has a clear appeal.

“However, people are wondering how natural and safe it is as it is lab-grown. Is it still perceived as food? The challenge is to present this in a natural way and inject strong food values – throughout the design, for example – to make it acceptable.

“Some interesting players are Mosa Meat, highly funded by the Dutch government, and Umami Meats, collaborating with Steakholder Foods.”

What insights can attendees expect to hear during your webinar presentation?

“The importance of the emotional experience that is essential in food, to move away from focusing the messages on the ingredient, such as pea, and the functional aspects of plant-based.

“How to ensure repeat purchase from consumers through the triggers and barriers, and what design cues and communication messages are relevant to engage with the right consumers. Also, how the whole category is evolving towards happier, playful design codes.”

TAGS: Plant-based