How Marketing Without The Meat Can Change An Audience’s Perception

The Impossible Burger recently made its debut in grocery stores around the nation. The patties and other “lab-grown” meat alternatives like the Beyond Burger are getting significant media attention after being added to Burger King, White Castle and TGI Fridays menus.

The buzz around the burgers are the result of smart science in recreating the texture and flavor of meat and next-level marketing efforts that reframe how consumers think about meat.

You Can’t Tell The Difference

The secret sauce that makes these lab-grown offerings different than your standard veggie burger is a compound called heme. Heme is an iron-containing molecule found in animals and plants. Heme gives ground beef its color and “meaty” taste. Thanks to heme, the Impossible Burgers technically “bleeds” like meat-based burgers.

That science has sparked legal debates and lobbying efforts over what constitutes “meat.” In Missouri, for example, it’s illegal to call your product meat if it isn’t derived from livestock or poultry.

Beyond Meat’s packaging, at least, meets the requirements of the law. But Beyond and Impossible aren’t interested in serving themselves up as burger substitutes or meat replacements. According to Impossible’s website, it says it’s taking “everything we know and love about meat, and made it even better – using plants.” When consumers reach for an Impossible Burger, they aren’t making a sacrifice, they’re making a choice.

It’s on The Tip of Your Tongue

Not surprisingly, the marketing tracks with research around what gets people excited about buying, cooking and eating food. “Research has shown that before we consume food, our brain constructs a mental simulation of how it might taste, and what the experience of eating will be like,” Daniel Vennard, director of Better Buying Lab, told Fast Company.

Phrases like “meat-free,” “vegetarian” and “healthy” are exclusionary and don’t get people excited about food, according the Better Buying Lab. Instead, food marketing should help diners picture the experience of eating the food with descriptions around flavor, texture and look and feel.

The marketing (and tons of free publicity) is paying off. During Beyond Burger’s first weekend in stores, it outsold beef, and “generated more excitement than any other single product we’ve seen in more than a half-century of operations,” according to one California grocery store exec.

Long story short: Comparisons are inevitable. Customers are always going think about your product or service in the context of the competition. How you talk about your offering plays a supersized role in who they see as your competitors and how to make those comparisons work to your advantage.

This article also appeared in our weekly newsletter, Long Story Short. It was written by Alex Irwin.

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