Flexitarians – those who consume both meat and plant-based foods – are now the fastest-growing consumer demographic, making up nearly 30% of Europeans.1 This consumer segment holds the key to unlocking the plant-based industry.
By shifting focus from the niche vegan market – which represents less than 4% of European consumers – to flexitarians, plant-based meat brands can open up a market over ten times larger!2
But how do you appeal to meat-eating, flexitarian consumers?
In its recent case study, ProVeg International profiled the plant-based meat brand LikeMeat to demonstrate some of its strategies to create a ‘meaty’ experience and attract flexitarian consumers. The case study makes five key recommendations for plant-based brands looking to attract more meat-eating consumers:
- Optimise taste and texture
- Balance taste and texture with nutrition
- Account for comfort and familiarity
- Use sensory language in communications
- Employ bold, colourful packaging
Read on to uncover how LikeMeat encourages flexitarian purchases by accounting for comfort and familiarity in product imagery and communications.
Comfort and familiarity are key
Almost two-thirds of consumers prefer products that are similar to foods they already know.¹ At the same time, many consumers are looking to reduce their meat intake. This creates a natural opportunity for plant-based alternatives to satisfy consumers’ traditional taste and texture requirements while also meeting their modern preferences for healthier and more sustainable foods.3
Research shows that 73% of plant-based products are purchased by omnivores and flexitarians4 whose primary motivation for purchasing and consuming plant-based foods is taste.5 It is therefore vital to focus on products that offer a familiar taste-and-texture experience when creating your plant-based product range.
Fostering familiarity is something that LikeMeat has done well, directly through product offerings and indirectly through marketing.
Primarily, LikeMeat products focus on comfort and meaty indulgence – their products replicate a wide range of ‘meat favourites’, like chicken, gyros, and schnitzel, ‘to make the step to eat less meat as easy and tasty as possible.’ With this in mind, plant-based meat brands should develop products that replicate animal ‘meats’ to gain consumer favour.
Product formats also aid with this – by making plant- and animal-based meat products like-for-like in application, consumers can use them as direct swaps. For example, LikeMeat offers drumsticks, patties, and meaty chunks which require the same prep and cooking time (and less, in some cases) as animal-based versions.
While it’s important that the product evokes comfort and familiarity, marketing also contributes to generating the ‘meaty’ experience. From LikeMeat’s product packaging to its website, everything has been tailored to provide a sensory and familiar experience for the consumer.
Product naming: LikeMeat products are named after animal-based ones – i.e., Like Chick’n Wings, Like Gyros, Like Snichitzel, Like BBQ Chick’n, Like Chick’n Kebab – to create a direct comparison to animal-based counterparts. It’s recommended that plant-based meat brands opt for ‘meaty’, recognisable names, where legally possible.
“On average, people cook ten favourite dishes over and over again. Making plant-based products that are easy to cook and use as a replacement for animal-based protein in one of their favourite dishes makes the transition to a plant-based diet easier for consumers. That’s why the naming of alternatives is important – it gives consumers a better idea on how to cook with plant-based protein.” – Justine Berger, Global Brand Lead LikeMeat & Marketing Director DACH
Website imagery: Across LikeMeat’s site we see people eating LikeMeat food in familiar, delicious-looking dishes; they have food smeared around their smiling faces, clearly enjoying it. This should be emanated across brand websites – imagery depicting plant-based food as comforting, fun, indulgent, and enjoyable is extremely appealing to consumers. Have fun with it!
Product imagery: LikeMeat’s product imagery shows a direct comparison of LikeMeat to meat, with juicy, delicious images that evoke a meaty experience and make the viewer hungry! We see comfort classics, flavour explosions, sensory enjoyment, and familiar pleasures, with the images conjuring the idea that LikeMeat consumers don’t need to give up anything. It’s important to choose product imagery that conjures up the visceral emotions and feelings of eating, and compares plant-based alternatives to foodie favourites.
The flexitarian playbook
In a market where taste remains the primary motivator for purchasing plant-based foods, LikeMeat’s approach serves as a valuable lesson for brands looking to tap into the flexitarian trend. By embracing comfort and familiarity, the plant-based industry can work towards unlocking the ever-growing flexitarian market.
As flexitarians continue to shape the future of food, brands would do well to take a page from LikeMeat’s playbook and prioritise the ‘meaty’ experience.
Want to uncover more strategies for appealing to flexitarian consumers? Read ProVeg’s full LikeMeat case study here, and get in touch with ProVeg at [email protected] for support on your plant-based strategy.
1ProVeg International (2020): European consumer survey on plant-based foods. Available at: https://proveg.com/what-we-do/corporate-engagement/proveg-consumer-survey-report-download/ Accessed 2021-10-08
2 Smart Protein Project (2021): What consumers want: a survey on European consumer attitudes towards plant-based foods, with a focus on flexitarians, European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (No 862957). Available at:
https://smartproteinproject.eu/consumer-attitudes-plant-based-food-report/ Accessed 2021-01-31
3 Smart Protein Project (2021): What consumers want: A survey on European consumer attitudes towards plant-based foods. Country-specific insights, European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (No 862957). Available at: Accessed 2022-10-20.
4 Malek, L. & W. J. Umberger (2021): How flexible are flexitarians? Examining diversity in dietary patterns, motivations and future intentions. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clrc.2021.100038 Accessed 2022-10-20.
5 Technomic (2019): Flavor Consumer Trend Report. Cited in Amick, B. (2019): Dining occasion impacts consumer willingness to try new flavors. Available at: https://www.bakemag.com/articles/12693-dining-occasion-impacts-consumerwillingness-to-try-new-flavors Accessed 2022-10-20.