Marketing expert Petra Smith, founder of boutique marketing agency Squirrels&Bears, shares her advice on how to entice non-vegans to buy plant-based brands
Vegan products are not new to the market, however, the recent innovation in products with similar taste and structure of traditional meat and dairy products has been a game-changer.
Even if not sticking to a strictly vegan diet, many consumers are changing their eating behaviours due to the new levels of awareness and innovative food alternatives.
Flexitarians, who mostly eat plant-based foods while allowing meat and other animal products in moderation are making it easier to transition, whilst still helping the planet and maintaining a healthier lifestyle.
Veganism can be perceived as an all-or-nothing lifestyle choice, however promoting that any form of plant-based eating is acceptable can lead to a more positive brand perception.
When marketing to non-vegans, the aim is to entice them into buying a vegan product even though that is not how they identify. It can be challenging to strike the right balance when showcasing that you are a vegan brand while also trying to engage an audience that still falls into a meat-eating category.
However, by being transparent about the benefits of a plant-based diet and communicating the right message to the right audience will help to establish your brand even in the non-vegan marketplace.
Defining the unique selling point
Defining the unique selling point is essential for every brand looking to effectively market their products. It identifies your products and without it, your customers have no reason to choose your brand over your competitors’.
A unique selling point is not just about the features and benefits of your product, but also the impact it has on the consumer. When marketing your vegan product, it will be easier to sell to vegans of course, however you can target markets that feel a connection with the values and qualities of your products, even if they don’t follow a plant-based diet.
To present a compelling reason to buy, even for non-vegans, highlight how your products can have a positive impact on their lives.
Vegans are the only group of people who average a normal and healthy BMI – the more animal products consumed, the higher their BMI. Increasingly, major health organisations are recommending a healthy well-balanced plant-based diet to prevent cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s.
Using stats highlighting these benefits can drive increased appetite for vegan products and promote healthy living.
A common question from both vegans and non-vegans is ‘where do you get your protein?’ If your vegan product contains a high amount of protein, use this to your advantage and incorporate into your marketing message and packaging.
If it is low in protein, create recipes packed with protein and be clear about the nutritional values including macros and calories, as this is what people are interested in as well as having a tasty meal.
Adding information about protein could have the potential to attract non-vegans who are reluctant to reduce meat because they are worried that they wouldn’t get enough protein in their diet.
Raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the cars, planes and other forms of transportation combined.
The production of meat and other animal products places a burden on the environment – from crops and water required to feed the animals, to the transport and other processes involved from farm to fork.
In contrast to the cattle industry, a plant-based diet requires 16 times less land usage, 13 times less water and produces 50% less CO2 emissions. According to the UN, the world population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050, which is expected to increase food demand between 59 to 98 percent.
As a result, agricultural markets will be impacted in ways we haven’t seen before as farmers will have to increase agricultural land or enhance productivity, which still may not be quick enough to meet the forecasted demand for food. A plant-based diet can help to change this.
Focusing on these topics in your marketing communication will not only please your existing customers but will also show your potential customers that purchasing your product will benefit the environment.
In addition, ensuring your packaging is biodegradable or re-usable will help you stay on brand, as single-use plastic for a vegan product will be perceived as contradictory.
Limiting animal products is the most effective way to take a stand against animal cruelty. In fact, every vegan saves roughly 200 animals a year. This is a very sensitive topic and being too graphic can alienate many potential customers, as you shouldn’t force anyone into veganism by making them witness the mistreatment of the animals.
Statistics might be a better option for those who aren’t quite ready for what vegans call ‘making the connection’ by humanising animals, so it no longer feels right to consume them.
You can include marketing campaigns that encourage plant-based food one or more times per week, such as “Meat-Free Mondays”, similarly to how the Veganuary campaign motivates non-vegans to try veganism for a month.
Promoting reduced consumption of animal products and the impact it might have even in small measures can motivate more meat-eaters to try new plant-based products. You could also create typical meaty meals, with replaced plant-based products, which could be an effective way to collaborate with other brands.
Communicating with customers
You may already have a partnership with vegan influencers, but why not create a campaign with a non-vegan to try your products and eat plant-based for a pre-set amount of time, giving an honest review at the end.
This will encourage more non-vegans to incorporate your vegan product into their everyday lives. Consider approaching fitness and health influencers, mums, lifestyle bloggers, food critics or celebrity chefs to test and share your products as well as the recipes and meals cooked with them.
Vegan brands should not limit their media presence to vegan publications, quite the opposite – by reaching wider audiences they can expand their pool of potential customers.
If you are launching a new product, write a press release and distribute it to the press. Creating two versions – one for the vegan press and one for the non-vegan will increase the likelihood of coverage.
Articles about the specifics of your products, getting them included on top lists, awards or interviews with the founders are also great ways to effectively reach new potential customers who are not vegan.
A blog on your website helps to drive traffic to your website, as search engines love fresh content. It’s also a great source of content for your social media channels.
Consider different types of blogs and focus on content that will make your visitors feel good and inspire them to try new experiences. Think about how your potential customers search for information and match your blog headings, so they can easily identify the right content for them.
Social media marketing
Focus on content that is educational and interesting enough for others to save and share it with others. Engaging campaigns such as giveaways and challenges will motivate them to take action, educational posts will give them new perspectives and posts about your products will keep them reminded about your brand.
Include more interactive content such as live streams or stories to create an authentic experience and connect with your followers.
As a vegan brand, you might be using your advertising budget to target those who are most likely to have an interest in vegan products. But adding health-conscious customers on to your list will expand your reach.
Even if they don’t purchase your products immediately, they will become familiar with your brand and the more messages they see and like, the more inclined they will be to try them.
Adding paid posts on social media, making your Instagram shoppable, using display and Google ads can all make a big difference to your brand perception.