Healthy Vegetarian Meals section in Supermarket - GettyImages-1149509548

Source: Getty Images

One of the key retail trends to emerge post-pandemic has been the rise of the ‘conscious consumer’ – shoppers who are looking to make a difference by adjusting their demand and consumption behaviours.

Given the meat and dairy industry accounts for around 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, it’s no surprise consumers are questioning their consumption of these foods and moving to alternatives.

Vegetarian-related search terms – including ‘vegetarian recipes’, ‘vegetarian burger’ and ‘high-protein vegetarian’ – have soared in interest by 50% since 2021. What’s more, the generic term ‘vegetarian’ has specifically increased by 46% over the past three years. Similar behaviour is seen on YouTube, where search interest in ‘vegetarian recipes’ has increased by 52%. Search terms including ‘plant-based’ also increased 67% over the same period, indicating significant efforts are being made to reduce meat in our diets.

The lesson for the food and drink industry is to meet consumers where they are. Not only are more Brits seeking out vegetarian options, but they’re gathering inspiration online before planning their weekly shop.

In 2023, a marketing strategy that encompasses all online and offline customer points of interaction – to reach them during the right inspiration mindset – is the best way to offer a smooth brand experience and reflect actual shopping habits. Customer journeys may feel harder to follow today, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Digital advertising campaigns that use automation can be put in place by brands to ensure the right messages are being served to audiences at the right time.

Nailing the creative is equally essential to an advertising campaign’s success. This rings true for brands targeting consumers with vegetarian, vegan or plant-based products. Acquiring new customers in this space requires a strategic approach with tailored messaging and well-placed advertising.

Bold campaigns that address points of contention have done this well. Beyond Meat, for example, dealt with the common misconception that ‘real meat’ is associated with manliness through ads starring NBA players and comedians like Kevin Hart. The ‘Go Beyond’ campaign, which ran across digital and broadcast channels in 2019, set out to reshape this narrative and direct consumers towards a healthy alternative to meat.

It created headlines across advertising, grocery and sports media – and the brand’s IPO was named one of the strongest in 2019. This shows how bold campaigns that tie into the issues consumers care about, and leverage AI to reach them, are a sure-fire route to success.

With this in mind, it’s important to note that 73% of consumers say sustainability is important when buying from a brand – up from 63% in 2022. As the interest in vegetarianism continues to increase, clear communication that demonstrates a brand’s sustainable commitments is a good framework.

This way, brands can both acquire and retain the growing number of ‘conscious consumers’.