Published March 6, 2022
Plant-based burgers disrupting the meat industry
We teamed up with Twitter to create the Birdseye Report 2022. A deep dive into what's cooking in the food industry.
+263.6% growth - 2020 to 2021 - in Twitter conversations related to environmental/ecological practices that use the plant emoji.
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 presents both a nightmare and a great opportunity.
Businesses need to constantly reinvent themselves - move with the times - and keep an eye out for the next big trend.
Not a nice-to-have skill. A must-have for survival.
Category disruptions are frequent. E-cigarettes disrupted the tobacco industry, plant-based milk curdled the dairy industry, and Tesla-like e-mobility entrepreneurs are driving the car industry in a different direction
More recently, plant-based meat producers such as Impossible Foods Beyond Burger, the Beyond Meat burger, and Nestlé's Awesome Burger are rattling the meat industry with their protein substitutes.
Meat-free burger challenge
Our social media search engine, Quick Search, helps marketers identify what category trends are spiking and what consumers are talking about. If you’re revamping your product or about to launch the next best-seller, finding consumer insights first is key.
Quick Search insights on ‘plant-based meat’ and ‘vegan’ global stats for the last 13 months.
When the pandemic struck in early 2020, it's understandable that for some of us stuck at home, bored, scared, and lonely, our normal healthy diet went out the window.
Bring on the cakes!!!
Realizing that we weren't escaping lockdown anytime soon, we readjusted, and looked for healthier diets.
Plant-based alternatives increased in popularity, and it’s estimated that the sales of fake meat will reach $2 billion by 2024.
Brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods fought it out with long-standing brands such as Quorn. While supermarket giants jumped on the meat-free bandwagon to develop their own plant-based labels, at lower costs.
We’re so grateful to all employees who have been working safely in our factories to help fulfil our mission to feed the world with great tasting and sustainable food at this critical time. Thank you all and no matter how far apart, we’re in this together! #StaySafe #Quorn pic.twitter.com/Jw5C4g5Gq2
— Quorn Foods UK (@QuornFoods) May 20, 2020
The meat-free burger challenge continues, along with the introduction of other vegan/vegetarian options, such as the launch in January 2022 of plant-based fried chicken from KFC in partnership with Beyond Meat.
KFC’s Beyond Fried Chicken tastes like scrumptious chicken… but it’s made of plants! Available for a limited time only.
— KFC (@kfc) January 10, 2022
Beyond Nuggets launched on January 10th across the US, and generated 15.6K social media mentions, with 210K engagements.
Conversation Clusters - consumers took to Reddit and other platforms to discuss, rate, and review KFC’s new ‘nuggets’.
KFC’s Beyond Nuggets are the latest addition of plant-based meats to the fast food industry. ‘Future of Food’ is currently a hot topic, as shown in our recent Birdseye Report on food, created in partnership with Twitter.
Sentiment around KFC’s new ‘fried chicken’ is evenly distributed
from positive to negative.
The image above shows the top emojis used in social media conversations, with the vote evenly split between positive, neutral, and negative reactions.
The ‘smiley faces’ and ‘green heart’ on the right of the image show that people are happy about plant-based foods. While the ‘green-face’ and ‘crying’ emoji on the left prove that not everyone is happy to give up on meat.
The ‘eyes’ and ‘chicken’ emoji in the center indicate that consumers and brands are keeping a watchful eye on plant-based meat ventures.
It’s near impossible to keep everyone happy. It’s likely that there will always be consumers who won’t go near plant-based meat substitutes. But, the fact that brands as influential as KFC are listening to consumers and creating new products to meet their demands, proves that plant-based meat substitutes aren’t going away.
— Vegans Facts (@VegansFacts) May 10, 2021
Vegan vs plant-based
According to some people, it’s better to avoid the term “vegan”, in favor of “plant-based”. “Using ‘plant-based’ allows people to feel they’re not joining a specific group for eating a specific way,” says Joseph Pace, producer, and writer of the film “The Game Changers,” a documentary released on Netflix in 2019 about plant-based diets and athletic performance.
Sherlock actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, follows a vegan diet and relies on vegan protein if he needs to bulk up for a role. But he prefers to call it plant-based, because he still wears clothes that are made from animals.
Over the last 13 months, ’plant-based meat’ has collected 155K mentions
and 1.6 million engagements.
The 12.9K spike in results in January 2022, relates to the launch of the vegan fried chicken bucket from KFC.
Looking at the hashtags for the last three months, we can see trending discussions around ‘plant-based meat’. Insights that will help brands deliver campaigns that’ll resonate with consumers.
- Animal welfare is a top priority, along with sustainability and planet welfare
- Clean eating and natural foods frequent conversations surrounding health and weight control
- There’s tremendous support for specific days throughout the year, such as Veganuary, Green Monday
- Veganism, vegetarianism, and GoVegan are trends related to the plant-based meat solutions
Talkwalker hashtag cloud for the last three months, showing trends around plant-based meat discussions.
Social media users have mixed feelings when posting about the new types of “meat”. Emoji vary from plants, vegetables, and animals, to laughter, crying, and vomiting.
Emoji clouds provide visualizations of conversation sentiment - here based on plant-based meat for the last three months.
It makes me sad to think that plant-based meat has to compete on price and taste. As if the torture and killing of animals and the destruction of the environment weren't reasons enough #EndFactoryFarming pic.twitter.com/ywyziSgoOT
— Ben Williamson (@tofuhomeboy) February 2, 2022
The factory emoji stems from this tweet above, arguing that plant-based meat substitutes should not have to compete on price and taste, as stopping the killing of animals and the destruction of the environment should be enough.
In 2020, the Oscars served up mostly plant-based food. The luncheon held before for nominees, provided a 100% plant-based menu. With the Governors Ball, offering 70% plant-based and 30% vegetarian, fish, and meat. The Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild also stepped up.
— George Pennacchio (@abc7george) January 27, 2020
The initiative has and still receives support from many...
— PETA (@peta) January 6, 2020
Making the impossible possible
22% - 1.5 billion - of the global population follow a vegetarian diet, many out of necessity - health or limited access to meat - as opposed to choice. Those who choose to follow a vegetarian diet adds up to nearly 1% of the global population - 75 million.
The generation breakdown shows that 22% of Millennials have tried a vegetarian diet, compared with 13% of Gen X, and 11% of Baby Boomers. Millennials are most likely to try meat alternatives - 8 in 10 - with a third favoring a plant-based diet. Marketers should take note of this brand-addict target group for meat alternative products.
Real meat’s industry feelings?
Inevitably, there are those who refuse to accept plant-based meat substitutes. An anti-plant-based public relations storm hit the US press - 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”.
The meat lobby strikes back!
They also posted videos on YouTube with their take on so-called fake meat.
Initially posted in 2019, the social media impact was relatively low as the campaign is quite traditional, failing to use hashtags or celebrity-endorsements. Views have built up over the last three years though.
The Center for Consumer Freedom team continues its anti-plant-based campaign, with its latest article in February 2022 - “No, Vegan Wings Are Not Becoming A Super Bowl Staple.”
Of course, we’re all entitled to our opinion, so I’ll just leave this here…
“Different diets for fans: Fans looked for healthy alternatives for Super Bowl LVI snacks, with different recipes that accommodated vegan eaters drawing major engagements (14,200 engagements), followed by keto (13,000 engagements), and gluten free (12,100 engagements).”
Game day food is sacred. With the holy grail for NFL fans being mac & cheese.
Will there be a plant-based meatless future?
While 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 minimize harm to oceans and marine life. Pioneering brands such as Atlantic Natural Food’s Loma Linda Tuno and GoodCatch offer tuna to satisfy all those with a taste for seafood and love of the environment.
Be ready for the revolution!
What CPG marketers need to know
- Know your audience
Recognize who your consumers are and what they really want. Listen to them. Understand why they hate or love specific products. By digging deep on social media, you'll find out what they truly think and feel.
- Stay ahead of the trends in your industry
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’ll make it happen. Digital consumer intelligence is key in today’s CPG marketing.
- Be bold in your social media strategy to drive brand success
Early adopters love social media and they engage quickly, if they like your sharp positioning (think Apple, Tesla, Impossible Burger). Measure your impact and adjust your campaign quickly.
Download the Birdseye Report and learn about what you can do starting now to take full advantage of consumer insights and stay one step ahead.
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