Why outcome-focused advertising changed plant-based food forever

Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers are everywhere, and the startups that created them are darlings of Silicon Valley. But what did they do differently, and understand about their potential customers, that previous vegan options didn’t?

Utilizing the power of Grafiti and Corus together we’ll show you how moving away from social and lifestyle issues and instead focusing on taste in product development and marketing helped move the needle.

Impossible Meat made news recently when it partnered with Burger King on the “Impossible Whopper,” which their commercials describe as, “100% Whopper. 0% Meat.” They have been a huge hit, and along with other meatless meats like Beyond Meat, are taking grocery stores and dinner tables by storm. But what did these companies see that others before them didn’t? Vegan options have been available at grocery stores for decades, and organizations that promote veganism like PETA, have been around a similar length of time (PETA is getting ready to celebrate its 40th anniversary next year). Finally the issue of climate change has been talked about for years; “An Inconvenient Truth” was released 13 years ago in 2006. Our research indicates that these brands, especially their marketing and product development arms, tapped into something else.

To start, we searched Grafiti.io’s library of published charts to gather some historic market context. Are “plant-based meats” really gaining traction, or is this just a misperception born of media overexposure? What we found is that meatless meat options have indeed been successful since their launches.






As you can see the amount of spend for non-meat options has exploded, and capitalizing on the media trends has been an effective tool for these new startups. As shown in the chart below (also found with grafiti.io), the reasons consumers say they want to try meatless options are numerous, and tend to align with recent social topics. However that doesn’t quite explain why these companies have done so much better than previous options available.




To provide some custom insights in conjunction with our Grafiti charts, Corus used our own platform to survey 700 American consumers who were aware of the new brands of plant-based meat. In under an hour we had answers that dug deeper on the trends that we observed in Grafiti’s charts.

Tastes like Chicken

Unsurprisingly, many of the respondents cited social/environmental, animal welfare, and health as the reasons for trying the products – there wasn’t any clear leader when it came to one main reason for trying, and thus marketing to these issues would be difficult. What was surprising though, was the biggest concern for why they were skeptical of trying these products in the first place seemed to focus on one thing: taste. And full circle we now understand what Beyond Meat, Impossible Burger, Burger King, and others have tapped into.

When marketed as meat substitutes rather than meat alternatives — such that they taste and look like real hamburger — instead of marketing to social or environmental concerns, it turns out there’s an entirely new segment of consumers that can be activated. But getting these consumers to try is the important thing, and these companies spent millions of dollars recreating the feel, taste, and look of real meat to get consumers over that barrier.

Strong brands and savvy marketers understandably want to grasp at the nuance of why consumers behave the way they do, and how small shifts in perception can make significant changes to the bottom line. This is an example of smart brands tapping into a preexisting market by serving consumer needs that were not previously well understood. That exists by subtly shifting the paradigm around what was previously thought to be a boring or niche product. The lessons here are enormous and can apply in your work.

What about the political and demographic breakdowns?

We also wanted to make sure that we captured any kind of political or demographic nuances in the survey. Here are some interesting insights that we pulled:

  • Democrats were more likely to cite environmental concerns as a reason for trying meatless options, however there was no difference between self-identifying Republicans and Democrats when it came to animal rights as a reason for trying. Turns out liking animals might be a way to bring the parties together!
  • Males were more likely to choose social or environmental reasons for trying meatless options than females.
  • Females were more likely to cite animal welfare reasons for trying meatless options than males.
  • 65% of respondents who had tried a meatless option said they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to replace a portion of their meat consumption weekly with a meatless meat, indicating that this trend appears to also have lots of room to continue growing.
  • Somewhat unsurprisingly, residents of large urban areas were far more likely to be “very likely” to replace a portion of their meat intake weekly with a meatless option.
  • Rural respondents were significantly more likely to say they would be “very unlikely” to replace a portion of their meat intake weekly with a meatless option
  • Females were slightly more inclined to be “very likely” to replace a portion of their meat intake with a meatless option than males


By starting with Grafiti we were able to get past the market size and trends to help us to think through deeper questions and get more insight with the same amount of effort. Let’s talk about how you can use Grafiti and Corus together in your business, email us at sales@cor.us.

Check out our page about our integration and learn more about developments with Grafiti here.



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