Consumers are becoming more invested in the stories and sources behind the foods they eat, and agribusiness has started to listen. Marketing firms are now embedding climate messages within commercials and other ads to spark environmental consciousness — it’s a way convince consumers to try new plant-based items. The approach works especially well when diners and shoppers see affirmations that plant-based foods are really delicious, too.
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Climate messages are a new approach for the restaurant and grocery industry. The need to appeal to better environmental angels emerged as many consumers have struggled to make sense of industrial meat agriculture’s devastating effect on the planet. It’s hard not to see the writing on the proverbial wall, as the statistics speak for themselves — either directly or indirectly, it takes almost 100 times as much land to produce a gram of protein from beef or lamb versus a gram of peas.
The stark reality about the impact of animal agriculture means consumers aren’t just focusing on their own health any longer — they’re looking at the health of the planet, too. By adopting a fresh tone around the need to incorporate protecting the planet within food purchases, marketing communications have embraced alternative proteins.
Language Choices Make a Difference in How People React to Plant-Based Meat, Foods
The World Resources Institute (WRI) conducted a multi-year study about successful methods to describe plant-rich foods. They argue that food consumption habits shift significantly when marketers change the language they use to describe plant-rich foods.
Their findings identify 4 kinds of language to avoid and 3 ways language choices to help customers embrace the shift to plant-based foods.
- Don’t use the terms “meat free,” “vegan,” “vegetarian,” or “healthy restrictive.”
- Do use the terms “provenance,” “flavor,” and “look and feel.”
More historically meat-y brands are embracing the new plant-based meat consumer base than ever before — and doing so in some really creative ways. AdWeek calls this an “exploding space” where marketers are looking beyond the vegetarian and vegan loyalists and targeting omnivores.
Ethical consumerism is becoming more evident in climate messaging. People react positively now to local and ethically sourced products; it’s part of larger quests to become better people, and they’re ready to make sacrifices for a greater good. Food purveyors are intensely aware of the trends away from meat, and a slew of climate messaging has been designed to remind foodies that they can have that taste and show responsibility to the planet, too, with plant-based meat.
The Ads Campaigns & their Plant-Based Climate Messaging
A more socially aware, ethical audience is the target for a recent Chipotle commercial. “Not afraid to show you how the chorizo is made. At Chipotle, we believe that whole ingredients are grown on a farm, not in a lab. With flavors you can’t resist, not ingredients you can’t pronounce… For vegans, for everyone.”
All-natural, no BS food with fewer ingredients, and organic whenever possible: this Chipotle consciousness is indicative of ways that plant agriculture helps individuals to contribute to their communities through local manufacturing, sustainable and environmental practices, and items that are handmade, small batch, and/or plant-based.
Just Eggs — already a play-on-words in the company name — draws upon a parent’s frustration to get a small child to eat. The male voiceover says, “She doesn’t give a damn” that the eggs she’s using are “created from plants, and she’s creating a more just food system” for her child’s “food system and the planet.” She’s simply glad that she found something the child likes to eat more than crayons.
It’s not a happy chicken or satisfied organic farmer in this commercial; no, it’s about taste, period. Or is it?
Consumers are interested in plant-based foods that support flexible, healthier, and more environmentally friendly lifestyles. The protagonist’s failure to recognize that she’s guiding her child to food justice is portrayed as little more than a frenzied oversight; we in the Just Eggs audience know she’s doing the right thing, even if she doesn’t realize it. We’ll help the planet, even if she doesn’t do so explicitly.
Rather than deciding to hide behind apologies or debate real-vs.-fake food facades, food producers are designing restaurant menu choices and stocking grocery refrigerator cases with plant-based selections. Impossible Meat, made from plants, consigned with Weiden+Kennedy Portland to celebrate plant-based burgers sizzling on grills, covered in melted cheese, that seem as familiar as those Saturday night meals your mom made in your childhood.
“We love meat. Red meat. Cooked meat. Bubbly meat.” You get the essence. The campaign and product is directed to an audience of traditional meat lovers, and, honestly, Impossible’s products taste a lot more like meat than a lifelong vegetarian would prefer. But we’re not the audience, as the brand’s marketing team acknowledges. This “meat made from plants” is part of a larger picture to “open up the definition of what meat is.”
And, so, the marketing focuses on meat-y flavor and “meat with cheese on it. More meat with cheese on it.”
Industrial agriculture’s impact on global emissions is becoming more transparent, and, with that awareness, consumer food choices in 2022 and beyond will unalterably change. An International Food Information Council Consumption Trends survey found that 65% of people in the US reported eating “products that attempt to mimic the flavor and texture of animal protein but are made with only plant products” in the past year — with 20% consuming them at least weekly and another 22% consuming them daily.
So it makes sense that advertising campaigns that inspire plant-based meat or vegan food choices are trending in marketing. Finicky, particular, or special interest eaters? Don’t despair. v2 Plant-based Meat appeals to the Taste-a-tarians out there.
Final Thoughts about Climate Messages & Plant-Based Diets
In their search for more protein, consumers are looking for non-meat sources to blend into their daily meals. No longer is ordering steak or veal from favorite restaurants or ground beef from the grocery store a given. According to Our World in Data, out of the University of Oxford, if everyone shifted to a plant-based diet, global agricultural land use would decrease by 75%. Bye-bye grazing. Hello, smaller footprints to grow crops. Natural vegetation and ecosystems could return to these lands with large benefits for biodiversity and carbon sequestration.
That’s because half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture, with most of this used to raise livestock for dairy and meat. Livestock are fed from 2 sources — lands on which the animals graze, and land on which feeding crops are grown.
Alternative proteins are predicted to account for 11% of the total protein market by 2035 and are already gaining market share in the mainstream food world. With dual marketing messages — You’re helping to save the planet! And plant-based foods are tasty, too! — more and more people are deciding to steer away from meats and toward plant-based foods.