Plant-Based 2.0: Addressing the Industry’s 10 Biggest Challenges
There’s no denying that times are tough for the global plant-based industry. Retail sales are down, investors have lost confidence, startups are ceasing operations and the mainstream media is pushing one negative narrative after another. As we look ahead to what’s next, it’s time to also look in the mirror. There are many lessons we as a sector need to learn and here are 10 of them.
1) Make The Consumer the Priority
The category as it stands today is far too technology-driven, we need to move to consumer-centric propositions that leverage strong consumer insights as soon as possible. In fact, we need to START with the consumer. It seems that many, if not most, plant-based brands totally forgot about doing consumer segmentation work when creating their product offering. As any food entry-level exec will tell you, if you don’t know who you’re selling to, you’re selling to no one.
2) Invest in Marketing and Marketers
One thing the sector has not done enough is invest in marketing and marketers. From winning concepts to persuasive communication, we need to rethink how we communicate to end consumers. Plant-based brands today are over-reliant on negative storytelling, e.g. ‘we do not slaughter cows’. Not only is this lazy marketing, it’s not the way to get consumers on board. In the polarized world we live in, consumers need positive encouragement and are looking for brands that represent joy.
3) Reassess The Sustainability Agenda
Despite what many of us in the industry would like to believe, sustainability is simply NOT a key driver for consumers, plant-based or otherwise. For many founders in this space, helping to mitigate the consequences of the global climate crisis is a (if not THE) major reason why they started their companies. The reality is that on the consumer side of things, it is a different story- the climate is not a relevant RTB (Reason To Believe). Beyond a small group of early adopters, the average person is not making grocery shopping decisions based on sustainability criteria. Companies need to keep this top of mind when making strategic branding and marketing decisions.
4) Rethink Pricing: No More Premiums
The industry’s pricing strategy is all wrong – we’re pricing at a premium when consumers don’t understand the product’s USP. For a ‘fake alternative,’ as many perceive plant-based meats, the average shopper is not prepared to pay this premium. While it’s true that the industry is in its infancy and lacks the economies of scale that Big Food enjoys, we desperately need to find collaborative ways to bring product costs down and make animal food alternatives as attractive as possible by making them as affordable as possible.
5) Return To Gastronomy: It’s Food, Not Tech
We forgot about the FOOD in Food Tech. We are creating food and our industry seems to forget about this when creating and communicating about products. We have missed promoting the culinary aspect of our product proposition. We forgot to talk to foodies, to celebrate the experience of eating great food, to showcase the gastronomic heights we can reach with our creations, the emotion that food and food culture engenders! Time for food marketers and chefs to get involved and help put the enjoyment of food and gastronomy back into plant-based food!