That the world is increasingly turning away from meat (and its derivative products) is obvious. According to the study “Vegetables in the Diet of the French” (2017 Ifop / Lesieur), 4% of French people scrupulously follow a vegetarian diet and 9% a flexitarian one (while 26% and 43% try it or consider trying it, respectively). But not only: 41% of French people say they have increased their consumption of vegetal products over the last two years.

In recent years, many campaigns and initiatives have denounced the negative effects of meat. Among these, two key factors emerged: the carcinogenic risk of a diet too rich in red meat (WHO announcement in 2015) and the negative impact of animal agriculture on the environment, brought to light in many documentaries, including “Cowspiracy” by Leonardo DiCaprio.

In parallel, numerous studies by experts from a variety of fields praise the benefits of a diet rich in vegetal products, significantly improving physical and mental health, preventing many illnesses and respecting animals and the planet.

This is not a fashion, but an issue of substance that questions not only the bases of our diet, but also of our society. In other words: to what extent do we accept developing at the expense of our environment, the survival of our planet and its biodiversity? If the vegetal question is posed, it must be posed in these terms.

Some brands are well in advance and have already initiated a timely and committed long-term process. Let’s take the example of N.A! (Solinest) which launches its first range of vegetal milks this month. Once again, N.A! shares its vision of healthy nature (all products are without additives, preservatives, colorants or artificial flavouring), but are also uncomplicated, joyous and delicious. First introduced as on-the-go pocket snacks, the brand has gradually extended its offer to include fruit compotes, followed by salted snacks. The consumer has always brought in to this common sense approach that puts its raison d’être at the heart of its business thinking and allows the brand to expand while respecting its core values.

We might think that this is an action by a small-scale company managed by a convinced and committed entrepreneur, but bigger groups are not necessarily left behind. For instance, Herta, who daringly proposed a complete range of vegetarian products (“Le Bon Végétal”) in 2016, presented this as an alternative to meat, accessible and delicious – and encountered a huge success on the delicatessen shelf. Continuing in this direction, the brand also launched its first vegetal sausages. With this approach, we see neither elitism nor militancy, but a desire to allow a maximum amount of consumers daily access to a varied diet by integrating vegetal products. This remarkable success allowed Herta to establish brand leadership, and to pilot this market segment in less than 12 months, way ahead of its long-time market competitors.

Beyond intelligently seizing a market opportunity, Herta has been aware of the environmental impact of its production for many years, as witnessed by the birth of its Herta Quality Commitment programme in 2001 to “help ensure we continue to produce high quality foods while minimising our impact on the environment”. This programme has been enriched over the years. Today, it is a fundamental approach in all its quality-focused product sectors, integrating both animal welfare and respect for agricultural resources. A real corporate initiative by a company that is the standard-bearer for ethically produced products and innovations. This virtuous cycle has ensured that Herta is France’s favourite food brand for the 6th consecutive year (source, Kantar WorldPanel Brand Footprint study 2018).

Other companies have adopted and enforce similar policies, such as Danone with organic products, yet not many companies dare to combine CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) with marketing and branding. However, this is the only real guarantor to consumers that this is real corporate commitment and not mere greenwashing.

Sceptical brands take a risk by not factoring in the versatility of the consumer – and not just the Millennial consumer – who express the significance they wish to bring to their consumption through the act of purchase. They have perfectly integrated the fact that their personal well-being is synonymous with respecting the planet. So yes, industrial brands are in danger if they refuse to leave their comfort zone: to develop and grow, you have to be committed!

 

Sophie Romet, Associate Director, and Marta Gonzalez Castello, Strategic Planner