It's a good time to be a cow

5 things to know about the plant-based sector.

Voracious consumption of animal and dairy products is no longer sustainable for our personal health or the health of our world. No longer a niche market, plant-based products are big business. From Beyond Meat’s recent IPO to the success of the first Plant Based World Expo, we are in the midst of a societal shift toward more plants for more people. Here are the top five implications for CPG marketers.

It’s not a game of or, it’s a game of and. Today, 40% of Americans are actively cutting back their meat consumption. However, a mistake marketers make is assuming consumers are going all-in on plant based lifestyles. To captivate the growing number of flexitarians, we've got to stop marketing to the vegan.

Often, these flexitarians aren’t replacing their usual haul. Instead, they’re keen to add new food discoveries to their grocery list and try new products that catch their eye on the shelves or online. This audience’s varied psychographics offer vast opportunity to create thoughtful programming to drive purchase and demand.

Tasting is believing, and believing drives more categories. The plant-based food industry has proven that meat and milk made from plants can actually taste good. This isn’t just big business, it paves the way for future product categories. If consumers continue buying oat milk in droves, then soon enough, we’ll be digging into oat milk ice cream and oat milk yogurt.

Smart marketers launch living and breathing brands — not just products — and creates loyalty and differentiation, enabling the client to move into future categories with built-in brand loyalists.

Consumer interest has yet to peak. Sales were up 20% (topping $3.3 billion) since the previous year and there’s no sign of slowing down.

Gone are the days of using things like the food pyramid, MyPlate, and of nutritionist’s recommendations alone. When we think about digital marketing opportunities, health is more than a caloric play; sustainability, ingredient sourcing, and full spectrum wellness are all integral to product marketing plays.

Retail competition boosts more than the bottom line. As plant-based brands gain consumer popularity, retail buyers are increasingly stocking plant-based products on mainstream, rather than "alternative," shelf-space. Putting these products where omnivorous consumers already make purchase decisions makes good business sense.

Even more important, the democratization of plant-based products on retail shelves is critical not just for profit, but also for the future of our planet.

Production capacity is the next big industry need. The biggest issue facing plant-based food manufacturers today is production capacity. While supply struggles to meet demand, comms pros can continue to do what we do best – raise awareness, communicate benefits, and drive purchase intent for the next big generational trend now taking place on supermarket shelves.

Frani Chung is SVP and group manager for the M Booth's Consumer FAM — food, fitness, and more — practice.

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