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How Impossible, Beyond & Nestlé’s plant-based burgers disrupt the meat industry

How Impossible, Beyond & Nestlé’s plant-based burgers disrupt the meat industry

A major marketing battle is taking place on US grocery store shelves: plant-based meat producers Impossible Food, Beyond Meat & Nestlé aim to turn protein-loving consumers on to vegan meat alternatives billed as healthier, more eco-friendly, and cruelty-free. However, the meat industry has not had the last word.

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Global meat consumption

Impossible Food, Beyond Meat & Nestlé’s plant-based meat will probably make conventional meat look old.

By 2040, the global conventional meat supply will drop by more than 33%, with new vegan meat alternatives and cultured meat replacing classic meat products.

For marketers, category disruption is both a nightmare - and a great opportunity.

Every business needs to continually reinvent itself, and have an eye on the next big trend. This is not a nice-to-have skill but a must-have for survival.

Category disruptions are frequent: e-cigarettes disrupted the tobacco industry, plant-based milk turned the dairy industry upside down, and Tesla-like e-mobility entrepreneurs are revamping the car industry.

Today, plant-based meat insurgent start-ups such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are rattling the sleeping meat incumbents with their protein substitutes.

The meat battle on social media: What are the category trends?

Clever social listening tools such as Talkwalker’s Quick Search help marketers discover what category trends are peaking and what is at the heart of customer conversation. If you’re revamping your product or about to launch the next disruptive best-seller, getting valuable customer insights first is key.

Talkwalker Quick Search tool shows powerful meat metrics

Quick Search provides valuable insights and trend key stats.

Recent findings show that 76% of Americans consider plant-based foods as healthy and that wellness is now a lifestyle as opposed to a trend. Additionally, 51% of Americans believe a meal is not complete without meat. Hence, plant-based meat replacements, which are sold as being less harmful to the environment, seem to have a great future in the United States. Let’s have a look at what social media tells us.

Ellen DeGeneres invites fans on social media to eat less meat.

By the way, please don’t say “vegan” anymore, say “plant-based”. “Using ‘plant-based’ allows people to feel they’re not joining a specific group for eating a specific way,” says Joseph Pace, a producer, and writer of the film “The Game Changers,” a documentary released on Netflix in 2019 about plant-based diets and athletic performance.

Plant-based meat is a hot topic on social: over 311.4K mentions and 1.9 million engagements were generated in the last 13 months.

Talkwalker Quick Search tool shows how the meat discussion evolves over time

Plant-based meat conversation on social media is an increasing trend says our easy-to-use Quick Search tool.

We can easily track what hashtags are trending around plant-based meat discussions, delivering powerful insights for campaigns. Let’s see what matters:

  • Impact on the environment is at the center of conversations about eating less meat

  • Lots of mobilization happens on specific days or months such as Veganuary/Meatless Mondays

  • FoodTech is heavily discussed when it comes to new food ventures

  • Veganism, LessMeatMoreVeg and GoVegan are key trends related to the new meat solutions

#plantbased #ClimateEmergency and many more trends shown by Talkwalker's Hashtag Clouds

A Talkwalker hashtag cloud revealing trends around plant-based meat discussions.

Social media users obviously have mixed feelings when posting about the new types of “meat”. Emojis vary from plants, laughs to screaming.

Plants, emotions, questions & more are some of the plant-based meat emojis

Emoji clouds are a good visualization of conversation sentiment - here based on plant-based meat.

By focusing on best-performing tweets, we can uncover hidden trends related to the topic around the world. For example, this Chinese healthy, plant-based meat-tweet that received over 20K likes.

Even the latest Golden Globes dinner party menu was meat-free - for the first time ever, with positive feedback from stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Joaquin Phoenix.

Innovative data visualization tools such as Talkwalker's Conversation Cluster give you a global view and useful insights of the main discussions on social around a specific theme. Helping you detect emerging themes, trending conversations, and giving you a full understanding of all sides of the debate.

Conversation Cluster Meat discussion

Conversation clusters instantly help you uncover, understand and visualize the context around any topic at a glance.

Making the impossible possible: Establishing a brand in a commodity-driven meat market

With 25% of 25 to 34-year-old Americans saying they are vegan or vegetarian and Millennials loving plant-based alternatives, marketers have a new large, brand-addict target group for novel meat.

The meat industry is mainly driven by distribution, not by brands. Until today.

Before plant-based meat made its appearance, nobody asked what burger brand you brought to the cookout. This changed dramatically with the launch of new plant-based, beetroot-bloody burger alternatives. Despite predictions from investors that the appeal of the new-age meat brands will soon vanish as all major food producers jump on the bandwagon or large chains such as Kroger launch private-label faux meat versions, early players have managed to establish valuable brand equity.

Impossible Foods, Nestlé & Co are players within the plant-based meat discussion on social media

Brands such as Impossible Foods and Nestlé are players within the plant-based meat discussion on social media.

Let’s have a look at how foodtech disruptor brands such as Impossible Food and Beyond Burger are performing, analyze how faux-meat challengers such as Nestlé’s Awesome Burger or Maple Leaf Food’s Lightlife Burger are trying to emerge, and how legacy meat leaders such as JBS’s Incrível Burger - the company being the world’s leading meat processor - are striking back.

Impossible Burger grossed 368K mentions and 1.2 million engagements in the last 13 months (mostly due to its fast-food patty), versus 589.9K mentions and 2.3 million engagements for Beyond Burger, empowered by its IPO and availability at Dunkin’.

Nestlé’s plant-based Incredible Burger (European version launched under the Garden Gourmet brand) or Awesome Burger (US version launched under the Sweet Earth Foods brand) earned 9.5K mentions and 34.8K engagements, hence showing room for improvement.

Canadian brand Lightlife Burger generated low 4.6K mentions and 77.3K engagements, trying to emerge.

JBS’s plant-based meat option, launched under the Seara brand in Brazil, shows 53 mentions and 13 engagements. The land of picanha and churrasco doesn't seem quite yet ready for this choice of new protein.

Beyond Burger and Impossible Burgers’ social media battle

Beyond Burger and Impossible Burgers’ social media battle.

SnoopDogg promoting the Beyond Sausage Sandwich - now available nationwide at Dunkin':

Jordan Peele showing that he’s an Impossible Burger convert.

Real meat’s industry feelings?

It didn’t take long to see an anti-plant-based public relations storm appearing on the US press horizon - involving the “new meat” pioneers.

The Center for Consumer Freedom, a PR firm whose sponsors have included meat producers and food industry organizations dedicated to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer food choices, posted full-page ads in major US newspapers and generated press coverage by claiming to reveal what the neo-meat burgers are made of, calling them “ultra-processed imitations”.

Fake Hair, Fake Orgasms, Fake Meats: all things you should avoid!

The meat lobby strikes back

They also created videos on YouTube with their take on so-called fake meat.

The social media impact is relatively low as their campaign is quite traditional, lacking hashtags and not celebrity-endorsed.

A plant-based meatless future is ahead

While all major CPG food brands are concentrating on plant-based meat (or blends of protein and meat such as US meat giant Tyson Foods’ Raised & Rooted brand), the next big meatless trend is ...plant-based seafood! Yes! Fish, shrimp, and crab-cakes, all made with protein and algae--in an attempt to not harm oceans and marine life. Pioneering brands such as Atlantic Natural Food’s Loma Linda Tuno and GoodCatch will bring you tuna to satisfy all those with a taste for seafood and love of the environment. Be ready for the revolution.

What matters for disruptive marketers?

  1. Know your audience. Know who your consumers are and what they really want. Understand why they hate or love specific products. By digging deep on social, you will find out what they truly think.

  2. Get ahead of the trends in your industry segment. Explore and stay ahead of the curve by listening to social media discussions on blogs, groups and social channels to find that actionable insight that will make it happen. Digital conversational intelligence is key in today’s CPG marketing.

  3. Be bold in your social media strategy to ignite your brand. Early adopters love social media and they tend to engage quickly, if they like your sharp positioning (think Apple, Tesla, Impossible Burger). Measure your impact and adjust your campaign quickly.

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