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Seeing the Potential in Plant-based Protein

Connor Guyton

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Beyond Meat® and the Impossible™ Burger have successfully fought their way into consumers’ collective consciousness. While people are flocking to fast food royalty to try their Impossible offering, I am happy to stay home with my Angus beef burger. You see, somewhere between my deep-South upbringing, my food science degree and my job in meat marketing, it became ingrained in me that meat comes from animals. (What a crazy idea!)

But not everyone in my family agrees, including my brother and sister-in-law – total Protein Progressives, according to Midan Marketing’s 2019 Segmentation 2.0 research. This affluent group of young meat eaters is willing to try anything and can’t wait to tell everyone about their latest food finds.

I would happily abstain from plant-based meat (that food science degree required an inordinate amount of taste testing soy protein-based “meat” products) except that my brother is one of the biggest food influencers in my life. I envy his willingness to try anything and his ability to substitute plant-based protein in a way that nobody misses the meat. Even still, I can’t help but reactively scrunch my nose when he talks about using BBQ-rubbed tempeh in his lunch-time salads and I exaggerate my exasperation when he chooses the Impossible Burger when dining at his favorite burger bar.

When I step back and look at these family members through a marketing lens, I see one thing very clearly: The potential for incremental sales is enormous if the meat case has the products they’re looking for. You see, my brother isn’t a vegetarian. Plant-based meats are only a fraction of the protein choices he makes during any given week. His refrigerator is full of Louisiana-smoked sausage, USDA Prime steaks and plenty of poultry. But the decision for where to shop is based on which store carries the obscure items – the tempeh, Soyrizo® and Beyond Meat. And with the Impossible Burger hitting its first retail shelves last week, that’s one more alternative protein item he’ll be searching for.

According to Midan’s recently released Plant-based Meat Eaters profile report, individuals who are actively choosing Impossible Burgers and Beyond Meat products are young (average age of 38), educated (47% college grads; 39% some college), urban dwellers. Plus, since the largest chunk of Plant-based Meat Eaters falls under the Protein Progressives segment, we’re talking about influencers.

My educated, articulate, foodie brother explained to me that he orders the Impossible Burger for one reason – he likes how it tastes. Citing a better outer crust and a variety of toppings that pair well with the burger patty’s inherent nuttiness, I’m almost sold on the choice in one text message from him. And you better believe that I’m not the only person he and his wife are talking with about their food choices.

Showing up in the work cafeteria with something as obscure as tempeh means they are certain to be explaining that decision repeatedly throughout the day. Plus, when these young, affluent meat consumers entertain, they make sure to have a substantial vegetable option for their guests.

To me, it seems like an obvious choice to market to these influential Plant-based Meat Eaters. If you’re not stocking the plant-based items these customers want, they aren’t going to pick a conventional meat product instead – they’re going to take their entire shopping list to a store that does! And suddenly you’re losing sales dollars from your meat-buying customers. After all, when it comes to plant-based meat eaters, the only thing greener than their plates is their money.


About the Author

Connor Guyton blends art and science, combining creative flair with the technical knowledge of meat. As the Insights Analyst at Midan, she weaves the perspectives of both consumer and supplier into the thought leadership pieces she develops, and delivers the latest research findings to our clients. Connor’s life experiences seem almost tailor-made for providing consumer insight at Midan. She earned a bachelor’s in communications from Mississippi State University and worked as a lifestyle news reporter before earning a second bachelor’s degree in food science, nutrition and health promotion and interning with the American Meat Science Association. Now, her diverse background helps her connect the dots behind data trends to provide the meaningful “why” to clients.
Connor Guyton