Why is it important to get vegan and plant-based marketing right?
In response to a rising demand for sustainable, healthy ways to eat, plant-based proteins are popping up on menus all over the UK1. And unlike traditional tofu, tempeh, or even early meat alternatives, these new foods capture the taste and texture of real meat and poultry, making them a hit with various consumers, from vegans and vegetarians to flexitarians.
These advances come as many consumers are looking for ways to reduce their meat consumption. Whether they’re changing their eating habits out of concern for their health, the environment, animal welfare, or other reasons to eat less meat, people are actively looking for options when they’re chosing deliveries or in the future when they dine out.
While this trend began in fast food, these products are becoming widely accepted in different channels around the world. It all adds up to create an exciting opportunity for you. To help you make the most of it, we’ve put together a plant-based and vegan marketing primer on these new products, who’s eating them and why, and how you can make the most of them to satisfy this new demand. Dig in.
Vegan food marketing might be new, but meat alternatives are not
People have been using grain to make the centre of plate for a long time, but the products that recreate the look, taste, and texture of beef or chicken so closely are more recent cooking innovations. Here are a few key moments in the history of meat alternatives2.
- 200 BC. Soy-based tofu is invented in China by the Han dynasty.
- 535 AD. Use of wheat gluten as protein is recorded in a Chinese agricultural encyclopedia.
- 1800. Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans in Indonesia.
- 1877. John Harvey Kellogg develops meat replacements from nuts, grains, and soy to feed patients in his vegetarian sanitarium in the US.
- 1902. Dietitian Sarah Tyson Rorer publishes Mrs. Rorer's Vegetable Cookery and Meat Substitutes in the US.
- 1962. Marushima Shoyu K.K sells wheat gluten as “seitan” in Japan. It is imported to the US seven years later.
- 1985. Soy schnitzel is created in Israel and mushroom-based meat alternatives in the UK.
- 2015. Realistic raw-to- cooked beef alternatives become mainstream in consumer and quick service restaurant markets.
Seven steps to vegan and plant-based marketing success in your restaurant
Since demand for these products is already high, it's easy to plan a successful launch and create buzz with a few tried and tested vegan food marketing tips.
Spread the Word
Diners in your area are probably already looking for meat alternatives, so make sure they know you offer them! Consider adding signage in your restaurant and/or using social media to call attention to new offerings.
Introduce Foods Gradually
Try a two-step plan where you begin by modifying your customers’ favourite dishes, such as chili sin carne, spaghetti bolognaise, etc. Start with what your customers crave and show them how delicious it is, even as a plant-based option. Then branch out into more creative plant-based dishes for your customers to try.
Highlight on the Menu
One of the best marketing tips for your vegan food offering is making is integrating it with the rest of your menu options in a seamless way. List plant-based meat alternatives alongside meat-based proteins in your menu so diners can find them easily and understand their options. Consider adding a statement like, “Make this dish vegetarian/vegan by choosing…”
Make Dishes Dazzle
Since it’s a brand new category, some customers might approach these foods with a more critical attitude. You can break down these barriers and win them over by pulling out all the stops to make dishes made with meat alternatives visually appealing and delicious.
Train Your Staff
Plant-based marketing doesn’t stop with your customers. Your staff is equally important in making sure the word goes out to your customers about your vegan/vegetarian offering. Educate your servers about which dishes can and cannot be made using meat alternatives. Prepare them to answer questions about the taste and texture of these foods and how they compare to real meat, and remind them to ask guests about food allergies before serving.
Consider introducing these items to diners with a complimentary appetizer. Think quesadillas with crumbles, nuggets and dip, or flatbread with toppings. You might also plan a special tasting event for new menu items.
Be smart about the way you speak of plant-based meat alternatives
- Use “plant-based” descriptions on your menu. Your diners have heard of plant-based foods and are eager to try them!
- Talk about the taste and texture, describing them as “delicious” and “juicy.”
- Tell guests if these foods are vegan, non-GMO or gluten free since some diners are actively seeking these choices.
- Promote high protein and source of fibre of these foods (if mentioned on the label).
- Don’t use words like “fake” or “like meat,” which may be unappealing to your guests.
- Don’t forget to ask your guests about food allergies and check the ingredients.
We hope you found our marketing for your vegan and plant-based menu helpful. And if your customers or staff are wondering about what is plant-based meat actually made of, read our article ‘What Is In Plant-Based Meat’, next.
- Eat Lancet, 2019