By Lucie Pearce, Head of Marketing at fifty.io
With the narrative of veganism changing over the last decade, plant-based diets are no longer solely the purview of vegans, as the ‘vegan-curious’ and ‘flexitarians’ continue to rise in numbers. Not to mention the one in four adults in the UK now cutting down on meat to get through the cost-of-living crisis.
With Burger King’s target of having a 50% meat-free menu by 2030 an indicator of just how far veganism has come, the battle is on for plant-based brands to really understand who their target market is and how to engage with them.
Veganuary is not only a critical time for a brand in terms of product launches and marketing, but it also offers a rich pool of insights which can help plant-based brands create long term growth strategies. With a record-breaking 700,000 people participating in this year’s Veganuary (up from 250,000 in 2019), it’s important for plant-based brands to capitalise on this exponential growth.
Our own research into this year’s Veganuary audience revealed, as expected, a strong interest in veganism among "eco-conscious city dwellers" with an interest in environmentalism, and "health-conscious consumers," who are concerned with maintaining their well-being and promoting mental health.
Interestingly, we also identified "millennial professionals" - a majority male audience with an interest in business, technology, and digital culture - as a vast untapped market for marketers to target their branding efforts.
These findings demonstrate how a seemingly short-term event, such as Veganuary, can serve as a platform for launching successful long-term marketing strategies that drive growth.
By understanding audiences on a granular level – their passions, motivations, hobbies – separates the broad audience into specific groups, giving a more effective blueprint to create the best strategies and tactics for reaching the right people.
What or who are we marketing towards?
First, you need to understand what motivates vegans, and why they make the lifestyle choices they make, so advertising campaigns can be tailored to their concerns and search intent.
We can start to do this by breaking down the vegan market into its segments. In general, vegans are far more likely to be:
• Politically progressive
• A pet lover
• A woman
• Under 30 years old
• University educated
• Living in an urban area
But when it comes to attracting new vegan customers, brands need to look beyond their current known audience to understand the motivations behind their potential new customers’ lifestyle choices. That way they can tailor their advertising campaigns to align with their concerns and search intent.
Most current marketing strategies targeting the vegan demographic focus on topics such as climate change, animal cruelty and health. However, these strategies often overlook the barriers that prevent meat lovers from trying vegan products and lead many vegans to return to consuming meat. As a result, these strategies may not effectively address the challenges faced by the target audience.
Focusing on the activism aspects of veganism may also prevent resonance for potential casual or mainstream plant-based eaters. An example of a core audience emerging in Veganuary are the ‘Trendy Gen Zers’.
This is a group that, while not primarily engaging with plant-based foods, are always ahead of the curve in trendsetting culture. Plant-based brands marketed as a trend to this group may entice them enough to try, and if enjoyed, continue long term.
Looking through the evolution of the Vegan audience over the years, does in fact reflect shifts happening in the market. Growth of more mainstream audiences reveal the broadening conversation away from topics like animal welfare and environmentalism, and instead to more positive health-conscious and trendy attitudes.
This evolution is a good sign for the plant-based market, but there are still factors to keep in mind with expanding audiences.
Barriers to entry
There are three main barriers to wider adoption of veganism. Firstly, the perception that vegan food is boring or restrictive is an issue that vegan brands have had to contend with for many years, but as the rising numbers of people choosing a vegan diet show, this attitude is on the wane.
Secondly, there are concerns around the nutritional value of vegan products, as many do not believe a wholly vegan diet is enough to sustain oneself.
And lastly, the perceived inconvenience of buying and preparing vegan food is a significant obstacle. However, as our research shows, vegan ‘comfort food’ and ‘dirty veganism’ is growing. Brands like vegan fried chicken company VFC Foods, or plant-based pizzeria Purezza, are leading a foodie revolution where indulgence and flavour are the priority, as well as convenience.
Looking ahead for future marketing strategies
It’s safe to say that veganism is no longer just for vegans, meaning it’s imperative for brands to take advantage of a growing audience and capitalise on interest all year round.
So, how do these insights help plant-based brands when it comes to attracting and retaining new customers?
The growth audiences uncovered indicate vastly different interests, influencers and digital behaviours between consumers, so brands need to first diversify their creative strategies.
To implement this properly, it’s important to gain an understanding of the following:
- What channels are relevant to each audience?
- Which influencers should you be working with?
- What content will appeal to them?
- Who should you be partnering with?
Using audience insights, it’s possible to tailor all of these attributes for each group, resulting in more dynamic, personalised campaigns and ultimately better results.
However, insights are just the beginning of taking your brand to the next level. It is how you activate these insights that will deliver real growth, understanding not only who these audiences are, but how best to reach them.