What Vegetarian Trend Means for Brands

It’s no secret the vegetarian diet has been on the rise in the last decade. In 2016 it was totaled that 3.3 percent of Americans identified as strict vegetarians, according to a study conducted by Harris Poll. This growing trend doesn’t just have personal implications, it affects how brands sell their products for this new demographic. In this blog, we will explore how companies can design, brand and market their products for vegetarians as well as how restaurants have been capitalizing on this fad.

A photo of a map of the United States of America with multicolored fruits and vegetables inside
Photo sourced from The Vegetarian Times

Why Brands Care

The vegetarian market is profitable and the last five years have shown many companies it is worth it to change their product marketing. Mintel, a market research firm in London found that the meat-free food market to hit £625 million in 2013 and projected it to rise to £657 in 2014.  This is signaling to brands that this trend makes money and draws in an entire base of brand loyal and enthusiastic customers, according to a Vegetarian Resource group article. 


A photo of the brand Loving Earth's multicolored chocolate bars in symmetrical lines.
Loving Earth’s chocolate bar designs are clean, modern and colorful. A Millennial’s dream! Photo sourced from Eluxe Magazine

Design Matters

As a college student walking through the grocery aisle, I am automatically attracted to visually appealing and unique packaging. Newly emerging vegetarian brands are taking advantage of my generations love of visuals and targeting their design accordingly. A New York Times article finds 12 percent of Millennials identify as vegetarian as opposed to just 1 percent of baby boomers, so brands have begun targeting this college student demographic. They have made their branding visual, colorful and modern as opposed to traditional grocery store brands which definitely catches our eyes.

Messaging is Key

Although there are millions of vegetarians, not everyone will pick up something that is labeled in big letters, “THIS IS MEAT FREE! VEGETARIAN!” To profit off of this trend, marketers and PR professionals have had to rethink the way they create messaging for their products. A great example of success is PlantLX, a vegan cheese company from Germany, that has started labeling its products as “plant-based” rather than just vegan. This makes the product accessible for all customers, not just ones that live a meat free or dairy free life. Quorn, a meat alternative brand, has also cites a 19 percent rise in global sales because of how it has positioned itself as a ‘good food’ to integrate into any diet. By doing this the company isn’t boxing you into one diet, rather making these alternative options just as delicious as your non-vegetarian foods. This messaging really speaks to omnivores while being inclusive towards vegetarians!

Take-out, anyone?

Vegetarians get tired of cooking too, that’s why many restaurants have revamped their brand and menus to be meat-free friendly in the last few years. According to Google Trends, four out of the top five related queries to “vegetarianism” are related to dining out. This means restaurants have had a huge opportunity to capitalize on these trends since a huge section of this audience is already searching for it.

The rising graph of google searches for the word vegetarianism
A graph showing interest over time for the topic, “vegetarianism.”
The top five related queries to vegetarianism: vegetarian meal prep, vegetarian near me, vegetarian restaurant near me, vegetarian food near me, and vegetarian restaurants near me
The related queries for the topic, “vegetarianism.”

Meatless/vegetarian menu items are popular, according to 57 percent of the chefs who took part in the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2014 Culinary Forecast. This doesn’t mean your restaurant should section of these plates on your menu, that actually could turn customers off to that food entirely. Similar to the messaging mentioned above, you will make more sales if you integrate these dishes into your existing process. The World Resources Institute (WRI) showed that customers given a menu on which the plant-based dishes were integrated with everything else were twice as likely to select a meatless dish.

There are many ways brands take advantage of the vegetarian trend; however, this trend is staying and brands will have to mind their messaging and marketing to capture the hearts of vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Subscribe to the University of Vegetarianism where I’ll continue to help you conquer your veggie diet goals while balancing your college life!

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