5 Tips for Marketing to Flexitarian Consumers

Posted by Kevin Keating on Jan 29, 2018 7:00:00 AM

Flexitarians are people who primarily consume a plant-based diet, but who eat meat on occasion. “On occasion” is a term that is loosely defined. Some flexitarians may eat meat a couple of times a week, while others may eat meat a couple of times a month, or only on holidays.

The key to successful consumer marketing with meat-free products is helping consumers realize they are not giving up flavor or satisfaction.

It is not a fad, either. Twenty-eight percent of consumers report having reduced meat consumption, and another 14 percent are interested in reducing the amount of meat they eat. There are a variety of reasons for this trend. Perhaps the number one reason people are reducing meat consumption is how environmentally taxing meat production is in terms of resource use and creation of greenhouse gases. Animal welfare concerns are another big reason people are reducing meat consumption, and concern over personal health issues like heart disease and obesity are other reasons for the rise in flexitarian diets.

There is nothing mystical about consumer marketing practices for flexitarians because they are consumers like everyone else. However, there are some things that brands may want to avoid. Here are five tips for marketing to the growing flexitarian consumer segment.

1. Do Not Segregate Meat-Free Products

Showcasing meat-free products next to their meat-based counterparts is more effective than segregating all meat-free products into their own freezer case. People can (and do) want a tasty, hearty, filling burger with the standard condiments, but they do not necessarily want the burger part of it to be made from meat. Keeping meat-free products with meat-based foods brings these products into the mainstream, and makes people feel less uncomfortable with trying non-meat products.

2. Use Positive Rather Than Negative Descriptors

Though terms like “vegetarian” and “vegan” have precise meanings and convey significant information in a single term, many brands have found these labels (particularly “vegan”) to be a turn-off to the ordinary consumer who is amenable to reducing meat consumption. “Plant-based” is an alternative that sounds more positive, and brands are coming up with others. The bottom line is that brands must choose terms that do not make people feel like they are “giving up” anything.

3. Emphasize Health Benefits

Food products that emphasize their role in overall wellness appeal to consumers, whether the products contain meat or not. 

Packaging designs that call attention to product health benefits are good for consumer marketing, and that is no less true for plant-based foods than any others. Just as traditional foods draw consumer interest by emphasizing that they are “cholesterol free,” “gluten-free,” or non-GMO, so do plant-based foods. 

4. Call Attention to Sustainability Efforts

Likewise, brands throughout the food industry are incorporating attention to sustainability into their consumer marketing strategies, because it is good business. It does not even have to be about the fact that plant-based foods are gentler to the environment. Brands could, for instance, call attention to easy-to-recycle packaging, or the use of alternative energy in processing facilities.

5. Use Traditional Packaging Design Considerations

Hardly anything about traditional consumer marketing changes when considering packaging design for flexitarians versus any other food packaging design. Packaging should protect food, look great, be easy to use, and be eye-catching regardless of whether the product inside is meat-based or plant-based. Brands that want to emphasize sustainability may include the color green more prominently in their packaging designs, but that is no reason not to include other design elements chosen to stimulate appetite and anticipation.

The flexitarian may become the norm over the long term, because of better knowledge of the “price” of meat in terms of environmental damage, animal welfare, and the effect on personal health. The key to successful consumer marketing to flexitarians is making products part of the overall range of choices rather than deliberately segregating plant-based products. As more people come to see flexitarian options as smart, cost-effective dietary choices, the more they will choose plant-based foods without feeling like an outsider.

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Topics flexitarian, consumer marketing, consumer preference