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Segmenting vegan meat consumers in 2021


Some believe it is unthinkable to think we’ll reach the point where people will voluntarily choose plant-based meat over animal proteins. If so, we’re declaring ourselves living the impossible from now on.


Whether you’re a committed activist, a recently converted “flexitarian”, or just a curious food enthusiast, you have probably immersed yourself in long conversations about meat substitutes.


Our cultural researchers found that Veganism is the most popular sustainability topic among Gen Zs on Facebook, with 25% of them engaging in this area. And across all generations, people now expect to find tasty, nutritious, and environmentally-friendly alternatives in our next-door supermarket more than ever before. These days, more accessible brands like Beyond Meat tempt even the most skeptical consumer to reduce meat intake as it no longer means sacrificing flavor nor texture.


We researched the vegan meat consumer psychology - who are they, and what triggers them to acquire these products? Our Culture AI tools thoroughly analyzed the semiotics of 700 posts on social media and contextualized the emotions that arose from them. We look at 250 other posts specifically addressing plant-based protein to pick up what people think about it.


What are the four key segments and their different purchase decision triggers?


Imagining these segments as people we'd run into at a restaurant, here’s what we’d have:


Food Enthusiast🧑‍🍳

Here is Richie, a guy deeply passionate about new recipes and flavors. Identifying himself as a “foodie” on social media, he allows his creativity to fly when it comes to gourmet home cooking, which has earned him a reasonable amount of followers.


He doesn't necessarily practice nor promote a meatless diet, but he definitely is eager to explore vegan cuisine as it brings variety and innovation to his table. Richie sees vegan meat as a new opportunity to experiment in the kitchen, to offer more healthy options to his audience and to maintain himself ahead of new trends.


In the eyes (and bellies) of his friends and followers, Richie is seen as a reliable reviewer of food products: he bases his recommendations on ingredients’ functionality, taste, and ability to blend into a recipe without compromising the full-bodied flavor typically found in animal versions.


People like Richie appreciate browsing through sites with rich resources for vegan kitchen adventures. Beyond Meat, for instance, has a dedicated space on its website for recipes, encompassing all different product ranges and ideas for customers who want to make the most out of vegan products.


Source: Beyond Meat, https://www.beyondmeat.com

Wellness devotee🏋️

This ingenious list of recipes also excites Lauren, who is devoted to a healthy lifestyle and finds a strong ally in plant-based meat. In her long-term commitment to fitness, she has become an expert in vegan products and developed a trained eye to spot the most reliable and nutritious alternatives on the market.


When Lauren looks for vegan meat, she aims for non-GMO products that are high in proteins, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and low in saturated fats, sodium, and cholesterol (yes, she is proud of calling herself labeling police). For her and the rest of the wellness devotees, it is not just about being in shape but feeling a sense of wholesome goodness too.


Some people have misconceptions of diets turning into monotonous regimes, and vegan brands have an opportunity here to add a range of new options to the diets’ menus.


To win the love and loyalty of Lauren and her community, brands in the food and health space need to demonstrate they understand that her diet is not just a long-term monotonous regime but a conscious move to carve out a (perceived) better way of living. Lauren and the rest of her community will turn to products which fit their sustainable, health-prioritising lifestyle, and brands that recognize these consumers as trend setters and path forgers in the health space will win their support.


The Conservationist🍃

With a holistic understanding of the world, we find in the conservationist segment people like Anant, a very active, young vegan enthusiast who daydreams about a world without animal cruelty. It’s been a long way since he stopped eating meat and committed himself to a fully vegan lifestyle (from food, to cosmetics and clothes).


As might be expected, conservationists are vegan protein ambassadors, encouraging others to explore vegan alternatives, and what a better place to do so than social media? Quite like a grassroots movement, they align efforts and generate purposeful content to create awareness and nurture inspiration.


Inquisitive explorer🕵️‍♂️

Adele’s motto is “try everything once, and the good things twice." She is eager to discover what the world out there has to offer, and that includes all types of food. For her, plant-based meat is not primarily about health or the environment but about satisfying her curiosity to try what’s new and unfamiliar.




Five reasons plant-based meat consumers wake up in the morning:


To find a fitness buddy

Compared to its animal counterpart, plant-based meat offers many benefits (both as a weight regulator and health booster), making them likely to be a recurring product in the shopping cart of any fitness enthusiast.


We think an opportunity awaits plant-based protein brands - often associated with fitness of the yoga-loving, pilates-indulging sort - to tap other markets within the fitness community, like the weightlifters, rock climbers, and HIIT crossfit bunch for instance, challenging the ‘softness’ of the vegan meat audience.


To fight animal cruelty

More than ever, consumers care about animals' ethical treatment and are willing to stand up for what they consider a fair cause.


Vegan brands should align themselves with the conservationist movement, signalling to their consumers that they are allies in this cause.


To counter climate change

Conservationists are deeply concerned about their CO2 footprint (meat and dairy products generate the most greenhouse gas emissions).


Knowing where and how the food is produced is fundamental in their purchase decision; they are fully aware that minor details can help preserve the environment, and they stand by brands that share the same mindset.


To bring innovation to the table.

The surprise and novelty factor is among the strongest points of vegan brand communications. Beyond Meat's is a hot favorite because they have proved themselves masters of innovation, always ready to launch the next product (we’re fans of Beyond Breakfast Sausage Patties, Cookout Classic, and Beyond Meatballs, to name a few) or position itself in the most unexpected fast food restaurant (KFC, in 2019).


To be the seed of change.

In the midst of global resource constraints, brands need to be both focused on inspiring early adopters to continue their meat-less path and driving more people to join a cause that should be on everyone’s agenda.


In order to achieve this, it is necessary to increase products' availability (as we mentioned before: to be in people’s next door supermarkets or favorite restaurants), and offer price cuts to make it accessible to a larger population, always accompanied by a restless awareness campaign.


For access to some of our reports on vegan consumer habits and more, reach out to a[email protected]

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