Plant-based innovation continues to boom despite our recent survey revealing nearly 9 in 10 (86%) UK adults eat meat1. As attention turns to climate change ahead of the UK hosting COP26, I explore the opportunities for ‘hybrid’ meat products plus the tactics that can be used to help normalise change and shift people towards healthier and more sustainable diets.
Image: Lean & Greens products, comprising British lean meats blended with plant proteins, launched in selected Tesco stores last month (Image source: Lean Greens).
Hybrid products, that blend meat with plant-based ingredients, can deliver on both health and sustainability so it’s fair to question why early product launches haven’t always been successful.
With six in 10 (60%) adults citing health as their primary driver for healthy sustainable eating, compared to just 16% who are motivated by the environment, I explore how hybrid meat products resonate with meat-eaters, and some of the key tactics that can be used to disrupt usual habits.
Shoppers are open to solutions that make it easier to change eating habits
There is a big opportunity for businesses to help shift consumer behaviour towards healthier and more sustainable diets and never has there been a stronger impetus for change.
According to our latest Appetite for Change research, over half (58%)1 of consumers are already changing their diets or are considering making changes to be healthier and more sustainable. And consumers often quote reducing meat consumption as an approach to achieving a healthier and more sustainable diet.
Image: In the absence of a consistent definition for healthy and sustainable diets, the Eatwell Guide (above) provides an appropriate direction of travel, delivering positive health and environmental outcomes compared with current UK diets (Image source: GOV.UK).
When it comes to changing diets, people cite a variety of motivations to do so. Most (60%) told us health was their primary driver for healthy sustainable eating, and although sustainability appears to take a back seat, we have seen a recent increase in those motivated by the environment (16% cited the environment as their main motivator in July ‘21, up from 13% in July ’20).
Consumers that want help to improve their diets are open to a range of initiatives that make it easier to change eating habits. When presented with various concepts to promote healthy and sustainable diets, the majority told us they would be open to things like ‘Meat Free Monday’ (65%), ‘hybrid’ meat products (60%), meat-free in the meat aisle and meat alternatives (56%)2 - with those who don’t eat meat every day, finding hybrid meat products more appealing.
Most people in the UK eat meat and there are many barriers to change
Although many consumers associate reducing meat consumption with healthy and sustainable diets, the reality is that most people in the UK (86%) eat meat to serve a variety of needs; with around one in five (21%) eating meat every day1.
There are many reasons people choose to eat meat and therefore the notion of eating less of it can feel like a significant loss. For example, some consumers see meat as a core element of their daily diet providing an important part of a balanced diet that includes protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables. Meat also meets some consumers emotional needs, providing pleasure and enjoyment as well as offering ease and versatility to the familiarity of traditional meals.
When presented with the idea of change, perceived higher cost remains the main barrier to healthy and sustainable diets with 37% of adults perceiving healthier and more sustainable options to be more expensive1. Other barriers include people liking the taste of their current food (21%), being creatures of habit (20%) and a lack of familiarity (15%)1. Helping people overcome perceived barriers is key.
Carefully considered tactics can be used to help normalise change
Through our Appetite for Change research, we worked with behaviour science experts to identify practical actions that food businesses can apply to help shift consumer behaviour towards healthier and more sustainable diets.
This research reveals that consumers fall into three mindsets; those who are making changes to be healthy and more sustainable, those who are considering it, and those who see no reason to change.
We identified practical steps, targeted for each mindset, that we can take to shift consumer behaviours towards healthy and sustainable diets. The five approaches include signposting, placement, product, influence and incentivisation.
Image: Our Appetite for Change research identified practical steps industry can take to encourage behaviour change based around five core levers.
Hybrid meat products can offer a convenient solution for meat eaters, providing a sense of familiarity. They are still getting the goodness and taste of meat, but with some additional benefits and therefor reducing the notion of loss. Positioning such products to appeal to those considering change is key.
Carefully considered tactics, both in-store and online, can be used to help overcome barriers and normalise change. Marketing, product placement and incentives for example, could be used to get people to consider healthier and sustainable alternatives, such as hybrid meat products, at a time when they may not have otherwise.
If we take placement, for example, that involves giving greater in store prominence to certain products to help normalise the change in behaviour.
Placing plant-based products with their animal-based equivalents, would normalise their place in the diet. This increases accessibility and avoids a sense of ‘it’s not for me’. Prime positioning would encourage more browsing for those who do not typically eat this type of food and allow for comparison, for example placing plant-based options side-by-side with meat products provides proximity and ease. Online suggestions can also play a key role for many who are looking to make changes to their diet.
Appetite for Change (Base: 1,368 shoppers, July 2021)
2Appetite for Change (Base: 1,002, November 2019)