Plant-based PR: exploring the rise of vegan marketing agencies

Plant-based PR: exploring the rise of vegan marketing agencies

By
Louise Burfitt
February 8, 2021

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that plant-based diets are all the rage. Where once veganism (at least in western societies) was written off as a fad or something only tree huggers indulged in, avoiding animal products is now pretty mainstream. By 2025, for example, it’s thought that at least 14% of the world’s population is already vegan or vegetarian and that number is increasing fast. As the trend gathers pace, interest in alternative proteins and cell-based meat is growing rapidly. 

Cultured meat companies (making versions of meat in a lab) have already captured the attention of investors, some as high-profile as Bill Gates and Richard Branson. So the logical next step is convincing the wider public that plant- and cell-based meat substitutes are worth a try. Step in the plant-based PR agencies who have tailored their expertise in branding, comms and public relations to brands looking to promote their vegan products.

 

Trend drivers: more vegans, more vegan products & consumer acceptance 

At its core, the growing number of plant-based PR agencies is down to the growing number of vegans - and, consequently, the huge increase in vegan product launches. In the UK alone, a 185% increase in vegan product launches was observed between 2012 and 2016 - and the trend has only accelerated since then. This underscores the need and desire for marketing, branding and communications expertise specifically developed for the plant-based market. 

The growth in vegan products also means that the market is becoming a crowded one. That makes getting your positioning right as a vegan brand more vital than ever. Plant-based products are no longer the only option of their kind on the shelf - more often than not they’re vying for space and attention with a number of similar or related product offerings. That explains why a number of product owners and vegan brands are turning to specialist agencies to make their products stand out from the crowd.

The rise in lab-grown meat and uncertainty surrounding whether consumers will accept it or not also warrants hiring the best expertise. Figures suggest that by 2040, 60% of the meat we eat will either come in the form of novel vegan meat replacements or cell-based meat, so the public needs to get on side. So far, views vary widely: Surveygoo (2018) found that, while 40% of American consumers said they would buy clean meat, the figure was just 18% for UK shoppers. Some agencies have sprung up that cater especially to that need (like Scout22, covered in detail below). There’s still a question mark over the best way to market cell-cultured meat products to consumers and research has shown that there might be a right way - and a wrong way - to go about it. Bringing in experts who know their stuff sounds like a good idea, right?

 

Exploring the trend: ‘vegans only’, cultured meat communications & shared values

The trend has seen a number of plant-based marketing and PR agencies popping up, companies that share the values of the alt-meat producers and possess a deep understanding of the niche plant-based market and its nuances. There’s a variety of specialist enterprises in the UK (like Verri Berri and Smoking Gun PR) and the US (like Think Walden and the leading agency in the sector, Plant Based Solutions) already, but bigger firms are also beginning to join in: leading international PR agency Ripley PR launched a new division called Orange Orchard devoted to helping eco-conscious companies grow.

There’s a growing number of agencies who proudly advertise that they cater only to vegan businesses. Shido Digital was launched in 2020 and focuses purely on vegan brands to provide them with the best service to beat the competition and promote their plant-based goodies. Quinoa Marketing follows a similar strategy and was founded by two vegans who decided to align their work with their values by helping plant-based and sustainable companies to grow their business. Some are going even more niche – Bright Green Partners launched this year and cater solely to global plant and cell tech companies, showing that there clearly is a defined market for highly specialist agencies.

As the cultured meat segment grows and moves towards regulatory approval, the question of how to market lab-grown meat to consumers - particularly the more skeptical - is also becoming more important. Research suggests that in twenty years’ time, almost two-thirds of the meat we eat will either come in the form of ‘novel vegan meat replacements’ (think Quorn and the like) or cell-based meat products. 

But since the news of the first lab-grown burger made in 2013 hit the headlines, some consumers and commentators have reacted with disgust or doubt, labelling cultured meat as ‘test tube’, ‘sci-fi’ or ‘Frankenmeat’. This has done little to convince doubtful consumers of the pros of lab-grown meat. A majority of consumers are still unaware that cell-based meat exists at all, so messaging that incorporates better education around what cultured meat actually constitutes is a must. That’s where specifically tailored marketing agencies come in: if so-called clean meat needs a rebrand, who better to do the work than an agency that really truly knows their stuff? 

Studies have shown that plant- and cell-based brands could see more success by dialling down the high-tech and scientific connotations of their product, and instead focusing on the ethical and environmental benefits. That’s a finding borne out in reality by Noquo Foods, a plant-based cheese company based in Sweden. The brand’s initial marketing strategy focused on their use of science and technology to create better plant-based alternatives to cheese. However, Noquo found that in practice this angle didn’t resonate with consumers as much as the ‘artisan’ and ‘fermented’ nature of their vegan cheeses. This is where a plant-based PR firm, with insider knowledge of the most successful strategies that resonate with consumers, would have come in handy, saving time and money in the long run.

The trend for vegan marketing agencies also means plant-based brands can team up with service providers who share their values and passion for a vegan lifestyle. Some vegan brands have admitted privately they would prefer to only hire vegans to do their branding and marketing. The majority of plant-based product owners also would prefer to contract marketing agencies with specific sector expertise, to get the best possible return on investment. 

 

Case Studies: The Saffron Society & Scout22

The Saffron Society bills itself as a marketing collective for people who want to live consciously. Based in the UK, the marketing company was founded in 2019 by Fleurie Forbes-Martin who realised that, despite the number of vegan product launches skyrocketing in the UK, there was a notable lack of vegan marketing and communications specialists to facilitate the astonishing growth happening in the sector. The agency works exclusively with vegan businesses selling products or services that do not harm or exploit animals. Forbes-Martin says the agency’s high level of tailored knowledge about veganism is what makes them stand out to brands: The Saffron Society understands, from first-hand experience, the complexities of veganism, and therefore how to steer clear of stereotyping and clichés in the branding work they offer to plant-based patrons. 

Scout22 is a US-based, full-service marketing agency that works only with what the company calls ‘conscious capitalist brands’. Plant-based companies form a large part of their portfolio and they’ve provided services to BlueNalu, who are making cultured seafood, Beyond Meat and Plant Power Fast Food. Founder and CEO Lori Amos describes her business as one of the world’s first boutique marketing and PR agencies that focuses on working within a specific niche of plant-based businesses. Scout22 continues to cement their reputation as one of the go-to agencies for plant-based brands - the founders recently announced plans to hold a mega vegan expo in California later this year (pandemic permitting). This is also a way for the agency to cement future relationships with vegan brands - Scout22 will provide PR and marketing services to the emerging businesses who exhibit at the expo included in the flat rate cost of the booth package. The agency illustrates how carving out an ultra-specific niche for your PR firm can pay off quickly.

 

Plant-based priorities: the importance of getting it right

We’ve learnt that getting your messaging right is crucial to success for plant- and cell-based products in a crowded market. And we’ve seen how specialist services well-versed in the vegan universe can help. Burger King’s venture into veganism offers a cautionary tale: in 2020, the QSR launched its vegan Rebel Whopper burger to great fanfare. However, it was quickly found to be unsuitable for vegans as it was cooked alongside meat products and its claim to be ‘plant-based’ and ‘no beef’ was swiftly banned by the UK’s advertising watchdog. Errors like this can damage a brand’s reputation, with long-lasting effects and sow distrust among vegan consumers. Burger King’s faux-pas underscores the role that vegan PR agencies can play in the market. Cell-based meat purveyor Good Meat is a prime example of plant-based branding done right: when a brand - and their PR agency - knows every inch of their target market and tailors their messaging accordingly, it shows. While specialist services can cost more upfront, avoiding mistakes and keeping your desired customers on side is likely to pay off many times over in the long-term.

 

The 30-second pitch: Plant-based PR  

💻 What

  • More agencies, consultants and service providers are specifically targeting vegan and alt-protein companies to provide tailored marketing and PR expertise.

🤷‍♂️ Why

  • The growing number of vegans and flexeterians - and as a result, vegan product launches - is the key driver of the trend for specialist plant-based PR and marketing agencies. 

✏️ How

  • Vegan marketing and PR agencies, consultants and service providers that are specifically targeting plant-based and cell-based meat brands.

👀 Who

👍 The good

  • By honing in on a specific niche, plant-based PR and marketing agencies can sharpen their expertise and may find it easier to reach their desired clients.
  • The trend for vegan marketing agencies means plant-based brands can team up with service providers who share their values and passion for a vegan lifestyle - and vice-versa.
  • Cell-based meat companies have seen a great deal of investment in recent years and their healthy finances mean they’re likely to have funds available to invest in tailored marketing expertise.

👎 The bad 

  • Marketing agencies targeting an ultra-specific niche may be less resilient than firms which have a broader customer base.
  • Brands that don’t align their product correctly the first time are likely to lose favour and trust among potential customers - Burger King’s Rebel Whopper controversy underscores the need to get your plant-based marketing strategy right first-time round.
  • Cell-based meat has a way to go before it is widely accepted among consumers and getting the positioning right is crucial.

💡 The bottom line 

  • As the cultured meat segment grows and moves towards regulatory approval, the question of how to market lab-grown meat to consumers - particularly the more skeptical - is also becoming more important. While specialist marketing services can potentially cost more upfront, avoiding mistakes and keeping your desired customers on side is likely to pay off many times over in the long-term.

Become a FoodHack+ member to get unlimited access

  • Access premium publications
  • Get listed on our directory
  • Join a Global Community

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that plant-based diets are all the rage. Where once veganism (at least in western societies) was written off as a fad or something only tree huggers indulged in, avoiding animal products is now pretty mainstream. By 2025, for example, it’s thought that at least 14% of the world’s population is already vegan or vegetarian and that number is increasing fast. As the trend gathers pace, interest in alternative proteins and cell-based meat is growing rapidly. 

Cultured meat companies (making versions of meat in a lab) have already captured the attention of investors, some as high-profile as Bill Gates and Richard Branson. So the logical next step is convincing the wider public that plant- and cell-based meat substitutes are worth a try. Step in the plant-based PR agencies who have tailored their expertise in branding, comms and public relations to brands looking to promote their vegan products.

 

Trend drivers: more vegans, more vegan products & consumer acceptance 

At its core, the growing number of plant-based PR agencies is down to the growing number of vegans - and, consequently, the huge increase in vegan product launches. In the UK alone, a 185% increase in vegan product launches was observed between 2012 and 2016 - and the trend has only accelerated since then. This underscores the need and desire for marketing, branding and communications expertise specifically developed for the plant-based market. 

The growth in vegan products also means that the market is becoming a crowded one. That makes getting your positioning right as a vegan brand more vital than ever. Plant-based products are no longer the only option of their kind on the shelf - more often than not they’re vying for space and attention with a number of similar or related product offerings. That explains why a number of product owners and vegan brands are turning to specialist agencies to make their products stand out from the crowd.

The rise in lab-grown meat and uncertainty surrounding whether consumers will accept it or not also warrants hiring the best expertise. Figures suggest that by 2040, 60% of the meat we eat will either come in the form of novel vegan meat replacements or cell-based meat, so the public needs to get on side. So far, views vary widely: Surveygoo (2018) found that, while 40% of American consumers said they would buy clean meat, the figure was just 18% for UK shoppers. Some agencies have sprung up that cater especially to that need (like Scout22, covered in detail below). There’s still a question mark over the best way to market cell-cultured meat products to consumers and research has shown that there might be a right way - and a wrong way - to go about it. Bringing in experts who know their stuff sounds like a good idea, right?

 

Exploring the trend: ‘vegans only’, cultured meat communications & shared values

The trend has seen a number of plant-based marketing and PR agencies popping up, companies that share the values of the alt-meat producers and possess a deep understanding of the niche plant-based market and its nuances. There’s a variety of specialist enterprises in the UK (like Verri Berri and Smoking Gun PR) and the US (like Think Walden and the leading agency in the sector, Plant Based Solutions) already, but bigger firms are also beginning to join in: leading international PR agency Ripley PR launched a new division called Orange Orchard devoted to helping eco-conscious companies grow.

There’s a growing number of agencies who proudly advertise that they cater only to vegan businesses. Shido Digital was launched in 2020 and focuses purely on vegan brands to provide them with the best service to beat the competition and promote their plant-based goodies. Quinoa Marketing follows a similar strategy and was founded by two vegans who decided to align their work with their values by helping plant-based and sustainable companies to grow their business. Some are going even more niche – Bright Green Partners launched this year and cater solely to global plant and cell tech companies, showing that there clearly is a defined market for highly specialist agencies.

As the cultured meat segment grows and moves towards regulatory approval, the question of how to market lab-grown meat to consumers - particularly the more skeptical - is also becoming more important. Research suggests that in twenty years’ time, almost two-thirds of the meat we eat will either come in the form of ‘novel vegan meat replacements’ (think Quorn and the like) or cell-based meat products. 

But since the news of the first lab-grown burger made in 2013 hit the headlines, some consumers and commentators have reacted with disgust or doubt, labelling cultured meat as ‘test tube’, ‘sci-fi’ or ‘Frankenmeat’. This has done little to convince doubtful consumers of the pros of lab-grown meat. A majority of consumers are still unaware that cell-based meat exists at all, so messaging that incorporates better education around what cultured meat actually constitutes is a must. That’s where specifically tailored marketing agencies come in: if so-called clean meat needs a rebrand, who better to do the work than an agency that really truly knows their stuff? 

Studies have shown that plant- and cell-based brands could see more success by dialling down the high-tech and scientific connotations of their product, and instead focusing on the ethical and environmental benefits. That’s a finding borne out in reality by Noquo Foods, a plant-based cheese company based in Sweden. The brand’s initial marketing strategy focused on their use of science and technology to create better plant-based alternatives to cheese. However, Noquo found that in practice this angle didn’t resonate with consumers as much as the ‘artisan’ and ‘fermented’ nature of their vegan cheeses. This is where a plant-based PR firm, with insider knowledge of the most successful strategies that resonate with consumers, would have come in handy, saving time and money in the long run.

The trend for vegan marketing agencies also means plant-based brands can team up with service providers who share their values and passion for a vegan lifestyle. Some vegan brands have admitted privately they would prefer to only hire vegans to do their branding and marketing. The majority of plant-based product owners also would prefer to contract marketing agencies with specific sector expertise, to get the best possible return on investment. 

 

Case Studies: The Saffron Society & Scout22

The Saffron Society bills itself as a marketing collective for people who want to live consciously. Based in the UK, the marketing company was founded in 2019 by Fleurie Forbes-Martin who realised that, despite the number of vegan product launches skyrocketing in the UK, there was a notable lack of vegan marketing and communications specialists to facilitate the astonishing growth happening in the sector. The agency works exclusively with vegan businesses selling products or services that do not harm or exploit animals. Forbes-Martin says the agency’s high level of tailored knowledge about veganism is what makes them stand out to brands: The Saffron Society understands, from first-hand experience, the complexities of veganism, and therefore how to steer clear of stereotyping and clichés in the branding work they offer to plant-based patrons. 

Scout22 is a US-based, full-service marketing agency that works only with what the company calls ‘conscious capitalist brands’. Plant-based companies form a large part of their portfolio and they’ve provided services to BlueNalu, who are making cultured seafood, Beyond Meat and Plant Power Fast Food. Founder and CEO Lori Amos describes her business as one of the world’s first boutique marketing and PR agencies that focuses on working within a specific niche of plant-based businesses. Scout22 continues to cement their reputation as one of the go-to agencies for plant-based brands - the founders recently announced plans to hold a mega vegan expo in California later this year (pandemic permitting). This is also a way for the agency to cement future relationships with vegan brands - Scout22 will provide PR and marketing services to the emerging businesses who exhibit at the expo included in the flat rate cost of the booth package. The agency illustrates how carving out an ultra-specific niche for your PR firm can pay off quickly.

 

Plant-based priorities: the importance of getting it right

We’ve learnt that getting your messaging right is crucial to success for plant- and cell-based products in a crowded market. And we’ve seen how specialist services well-versed in the vegan universe can help. Burger King’s venture into veganism offers a cautionary tale: in 2020, the QSR launched its vegan Rebel Whopper burger to great fanfare. However, it was quickly found to be unsuitable for vegans as it was cooked alongside meat products and its claim to be ‘plant-based’ and ‘no beef’ was swiftly banned by the UK’s advertising watchdog. Errors like this can damage a brand’s reputation, with long-lasting effects and sow distrust among vegan consumers. Burger King’s faux-pas underscores the role that vegan PR agencies can play in the market. Cell-based meat purveyor Good Meat is a prime example of plant-based branding done right: when a brand - and their PR agency - knows every inch of their target market and tailors their messaging accordingly, it shows. While specialist services can cost more upfront, avoiding mistakes and keeping your desired customers on side is likely to pay off many times over in the long-term.

 

The 30-second pitch: Plant-based PR  

💻 What

  • More agencies, consultants and service providers are specifically targeting vegan and alt-protein companies to provide tailored marketing and PR expertise.

🤷‍♂️ Why

  • The growing number of vegans and flexeterians - and as a result, vegan product launches - is the key driver of the trend for specialist plant-based PR and marketing agencies. 

✏️ How

  • Vegan marketing and PR agencies, consultants and service providers that are specifically targeting plant-based and cell-based meat brands.

👀 Who

👍 The good

  • By honing in on a specific niche, plant-based PR and marketing agencies can sharpen their expertise and may find it easier to reach their desired clients.
  • The trend for vegan marketing agencies means plant-based brands can team up with service providers who share their values and passion for a vegan lifestyle - and vice-versa.
  • Cell-based meat companies have seen a great deal of investment in recent years and their healthy finances mean they’re likely to have funds available to invest in tailored marketing expertise.

👎 The bad 

  • Marketing agencies targeting an ultra-specific niche may be less resilient than firms which have a broader customer base.
  • Brands that don’t align their product correctly the first time are likely to lose favour and trust among potential customers - Burger King’s Rebel Whopper controversy underscores the need to get your plant-based marketing strategy right first-time round.
  • Cell-based meat has a way to go before it is widely accepted among consumers and getting the positioning right is crucial.

💡 The bottom line 

  • As the cultured meat segment grows and moves towards regulatory approval, the question of how to market lab-grown meat to consumers - particularly the more skeptical - is also becoming more important. While specialist marketing services can potentially cost more upfront, avoiding mistakes and keeping your desired customers on side is likely to pay off many times over in the long-term.

Become a FoodHack+ member to get unlimited access

  • Access premium publications
  • Get listed on our directory
  • Join a Global Community

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that plant-based diets are all the rage. Where once veganism (at least in western societies) was written off as a fad or something only tree huggers indulged in, avoiding animal products is now pretty mainstream. By 2025, for example, it’s thought that at least 14% of the world’s population is already vegan or vegetarian and that number is increasing fast. As the trend gathers pace, interest in alternative proteins and cell-based meat is growing rapidly. 

Cultured meat companies (making versions of meat in a lab) have already captured the attention of investors, some as high-profile as Bill Gates and Richard Branson. So the logical next step is convincing the wider public that plant- and cell-based meat substitutes are worth a try. Step in the plant-based PR agencies who have tailored their expertise in branding, comms and public relations to brands looking to promote their vegan products.

 

Trend drivers: more vegans, more vegan products & consumer acceptance 

At its core, the growing number of plant-based PR agencies is down to the growing number of vegans - and, consequently, the huge increase in vegan product launches. In the UK alone, a 185% increase in vegan product launches was observed between 2012 and 2016 - and the trend has only accelerated since then. This underscores the need and desire for marketing, branding and communications expertise specifically developed for the plant-based market. 

The growth in vegan products also means that the market is becoming a crowded one. That makes getting your positioning right as a vegan brand more vital than ever. Plant-based products are no longer the only option of their kind on the shelf - more often than not they’re vying for space and attention with a number of similar or related product offerings. That explains why a number of product owners and vegan brands are turning to specialist agencies to make their products stand out from the crowd.

The rise in lab-grown meat and uncertainty surrounding whether consumers will accept it or not also warrants hiring the best expertise. Figures suggest that by 2040, 60% of the meat we eat will either come in the form of novel vegan meat replacements or cell-based meat, so the public needs to get on side. So far, views vary widely: Surveygoo (2018) found that, while 40% of American consumers said they would buy clean meat, the figure was just 18% for UK shoppers. Some agencies have sprung up that cater especially to that need (like Scout22, covered in detail below). There’s still a question mark over the best way to market cell-cultured meat products to consumers and research has shown that there might be a right way - and a wrong way - to go about it. Bringing in experts who know their stuff sounds like a good idea, right?

 

Exploring the trend: ‘vegans only’, cultured meat communications & shared values

The trend has seen a number of plant-based marketing and PR agencies popping up, companies that share the values of the alt-meat producers and possess a deep understanding of the niche plant-based market and its nuances. There’s a variety of specialist enterprises in the UK (like Verri Berri and Smoking Gun PR) and the US (like Think Walden and the leading agency in the sector, Plant Based Solutions) already, but bigger firms are also beginning to join in: leading international PR agency Ripley PR launched a new division called Orange Orchard devoted to helping eco-conscious companies grow.

There’s a growing number of agencies who proudly advertise that they cater only to vegan businesses. Shido Digital was launched in 2020 and focuses purely on vegan brands to provide them with the best service to beat the competition and promote their plant-based goodies. Quinoa Marketing follows a similar strategy and was founded by two vegans who decided to align their work with their values by helping plant-based and sustainable companies to grow their business. Some are going even more niche – Bright Green Partners launched this year and cater solely to global plant and cell tech companies, showing that there clearly is a defined market for highly specialist agencies.

As the cultured meat segment grows and moves towards regulatory approval, the question of how to market lab-grown meat to consumers - particularly the more skeptical - is also becoming more important. Research suggests that in twenty years’ time, almost two-thirds of the meat we eat will either come in the form of ‘novel vegan meat replacements’ (think Quorn and the like) or cell-based meat products. 

But since the news of the first lab-grown burger made in 2013 hit the headlines, some consumers and commentators have reacted with disgust or doubt, labelling cultured meat as ‘test tube’, ‘sci-fi’ or ‘Frankenmeat’. This has done little to convince doubtful consumers of the pros of lab-grown meat. A majority of consumers are still unaware that cell-based meat exists at all, so messaging that incorporates better education around what cultured meat actually constitutes is a must. That’s where specifically tailored marketing agencies come in: if so-called clean meat needs a rebrand, who better to do the work than an agency that really truly knows their stuff? 

Studies have shown that plant- and cell-based brands could see more success by dialling down the high-tech and scientific connotations of their product, and instead focusing on the ethical and environmental benefits. That’s a finding borne out in reality by Noquo Foods, a plant-based cheese company based in Sweden. The brand’s initial marketing strategy focused on their use of science and technology to create better plant-based alternatives to cheese. However, Noquo found that in practice this angle didn’t resonate with consumers as much as the ‘artisan’ and ‘fermented’ nature of their vegan cheeses. This is where a plant-based PR firm, with insider knowledge of the most successful strategies that resonate with consumers, would have come in handy, saving time and money in the long run.

The trend for vegan marketing agencies also means plant-based brands can team up with service providers who share their values and passion for a vegan lifestyle. Some vegan brands have admitted privately they would prefer to only hire vegans to do their branding and marketing. The majority of plant-based product owners also would prefer to contract marketing agencies with specific sector expertise, to get the best possible return on investment. 

 

Case Studies: The Saffron Society & Scout22

The Saffron Society bills itself as a marketing collective for people who want to live consciously. Based in the UK, the marketing company was founded in 2019 by Fleurie Forbes-Martin who realised that, despite the number of vegan product launches skyrocketing in the UK, there was a notable lack of vegan marketing and communications specialists to facilitate the astonishing growth happening in the sector. The agency works exclusively with vegan businesses selling products or services that do not harm or exploit animals. Forbes-Martin says the agency’s high level of tailored knowledge about veganism is what makes them stand out to brands: The Saffron Society understands, from first-hand experience, the complexities of veganism, and therefore how to steer clear of stereotyping and clichés in the branding work they offer to plant-based patrons. 

Scout22 is a US-based, full-service marketing agency that works only with what the company calls ‘conscious capitalist brands’. Plant-based companies form a large part of their portfolio and they’ve provided services to BlueNalu, who are making cultured seafood, Beyond Meat and Plant Power Fast Food. Founder and CEO Lori Amos describes her business as one of the world’s first boutique marketing and PR agencies that focuses on working within a specific niche of plant-based businesses. Scout22 continues to cement their reputation as one of the go-to agencies for plant-based brands - the founders recently announced plans to hold a mega vegan expo in California later this year (pandemic permitting). This is also a way for the agency to cement future relationships with vegan brands - Scout22 will provide PR and marketing services to the emerging businesses who exhibit at the expo included in the flat rate cost of the booth package. The agency illustrates how carving out an ultra-specific niche for your PR firm can pay off quickly.

 

Plant-based priorities: the importance of getting it right

We’ve learnt that getting your messaging right is crucial to success for plant- and cell-based products in a crowded market. And we’ve seen how specialist services well-versed in the vegan universe can help. Burger King’s venture into veganism offers a cautionary tale: in 2020, the QSR launched its vegan Rebel Whopper burger to great fanfare. However, it was quickly found to be unsuitable for vegans as it was cooked alongside meat products and its claim to be ‘plant-based’ and ‘no beef’ was swiftly banned by the UK’s advertising watchdog. Errors like this can damage a brand’s reputation, with long-lasting effects and sow distrust among vegan consumers. Burger King’s faux-pas underscores the role that vegan PR agencies can play in the market. Cell-based meat purveyor Good Meat is a prime example of plant-based branding done right: when a brand - and their PR agency - knows every inch of their target market and tailors their messaging accordingly, it shows. While specialist services can cost more upfront, avoiding mistakes and keeping your desired customers on side is likely to pay off many times over in the long-term.

 

The 30-second pitch: Plant-based PR  

💻 What

  • More agencies, consultants and service providers are specifically targeting vegan and alt-protein companies to provide tailored marketing and PR expertise.

🤷‍♂️ Why

  • The growing number of vegans and flexeterians - and as a result, vegan product launches - is the key driver of the trend for specialist plant-based PR and marketing agencies. 

✏️ How

  • Vegan marketing and PR agencies, consultants and service providers that are specifically targeting plant-based and cell-based meat brands.

👀 Who

👍 The good

  • By honing in on a specific niche, plant-based PR and marketing agencies can sharpen their expertise and may find it easier to reach their desired clients.
  • The trend for vegan marketing agencies means plant-based brands can team up with service providers who share their values and passion for a vegan lifestyle - and vice-versa.
  • Cell-based meat companies have seen a great deal of investment in recent years and their healthy finances mean they’re likely to have funds available to invest in tailored marketing expertise.

👎 The bad 

  • Marketing agencies targeting an ultra-specific niche may be less resilient than firms which have a broader customer base.
  • Brands that don’t align their product correctly the first time are likely to lose favour and trust among potential customers - Burger King’s Rebel Whopper controversy underscores the need to get your plant-based marketing strategy right first-time round.
  • Cell-based meat has a way to go before it is widely accepted among consumers and getting the positioning right is crucial.

💡 The bottom line 

  • As the cultured meat segment grows and moves towards regulatory approval, the question of how to market lab-grown meat to consumers - particularly the more skeptical - is also becoming more important. While specialist marketing services can potentially cost more upfront, avoiding mistakes and keeping your desired customers on side is likely to pay off many times over in the long-term.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that plant-based diets are all the rage. Where once veganism (at least in western societies) was written off as a fad or something only tree huggers indulged in, avoiding animal products is now pretty mainstream. By 2025, for example, it’s thought that at least 14% of the world’s population is already vegan or vegetarian and that number is increasing fast. As the trend gathers pace, interest in alternative proteins and cell-based meat is growing rapidly. 

Cultured meat companies (making versions of meat in a lab) have already captured the attention of investors, some as high-profile as Bill Gates and Richard Branson. So the logical next step is convincing the wider public that plant- and cell-based meat substitutes are worth a try. Step in the plant-based PR agencies who have tailored their expertise in branding, comms and public relations to brands looking to promote their vegan products.

 

Trend drivers: more vegans, more vegan products & consumer acceptance 

At its core, the growing number of plant-based PR agencies is down to the growing number of vegans - and, consequently, the huge increase in vegan product launches. In the UK alone, a 185% increase in vegan product launches was observed between 2012 and 2016 - and the trend has only accelerated since then. This underscores the need and desire for marketing, branding and communications expertise specifically developed for the plant-based market. 

The growth in vegan products also means that the market is becoming a crowded one. That makes getting your positioning right as a vegan brand more vital than ever. Plant-based products are no longer the only option of their kind on the shelf - more often than not they’re vying for space and attention with a number of similar or related product offerings. That explains why a number of product owners and vegan brands are turning to specialist agencies to make their products stand out from the crowd.

The rise in lab-grown meat and uncertainty surrounding whether consumers will accept it or not also warrants hiring the best expertise. Figures suggest that by 2040, 60% of the meat we eat will either come in the form of novel vegan meat replacements or cell-based meat, so the public needs to get on side. So far, views vary widely: Surveygoo (2018) found that, while 40% of American consumers said they would buy clean meat, the figure was just 18% for UK shoppers. Some agencies have sprung up that cater especially to that need (like Scout22, covered in detail below). There’s still a question mark over the best way to market cell-cultured meat products to consumers and research has shown that there might be a right way - and a wrong way - to go about it. Bringing in experts who know their stuff sounds like a good idea, right?

 

Exploring the trend: ‘vegans only’, cultured meat communications & shared values

The trend has seen a number of plant-based marketing and PR agencies popping up, companies that share the values of the alt-meat producers and possess a deep understanding of the niche plant-based market and its nuances. There’s a variety of specialist enterprises in the UK (like Verri Berri and Smoking Gun PR) and the US (like Think Walden and the leading agency in the sector, Plant Based Solutions) already, but bigger firms are also beginning to join in: leading international PR agency Ripley PR launched a new division called Orange Orchard devoted to helping eco-conscious companies grow.

There’s a growing number of agencies who proudly advertise that they cater only to vegan businesses. Shido Digital was launched in 2020 and focuses purely on vegan brands to provide them with the best service to beat the competition and promote their plant-based goodies. Quinoa Marketing follows a similar strategy and was founded by two vegans who decided to align their work with their values by helping plant-based and sustainable companies to grow their business. Some are going even more niche – Bright Green Partners launched this year and cater solely to global plant and cell tech companies, showing that there clearly is a defined market for highly specialist agencies.

As the cultured meat segment grows and moves towards regulatory approval, the question of how to market lab-grown meat to consumers - particularly the more skeptical - is also becoming more important. Research suggests that in twenty years’ time, almost two-thirds of the meat we eat will either come in the form of ‘novel vegan meat replacements’ (think Quorn and the like) or cell-based meat products. 

But since the news of the first lab-grown burger made in 2013 hit the headlines, some consumers and commentators have reacted with disgust or doubt, labelling cultured meat as ‘test tube’, ‘sci-fi’ or ‘Frankenmeat’. This has done little to convince doubtful consumers of the pros of lab-grown meat. A majority of consumers are still unaware that cell-based meat exists at all, so messaging that incorporates better education around what cultured meat actually constitutes is a must. That’s where specifically tailored marketing agencies come in: if so-called clean meat needs a rebrand, who better to do the work than an agency that really truly knows their stuff? 

Studies have shown that plant- and cell-based brands could see more success by dialling down the high-tech and scientific connotations of their product, and instead focusing on the ethical and environmental benefits. That’s a finding borne out in reality by Noquo Foods, a plant-based cheese company based in Sweden. The brand’s initial marketing strategy focused on their use of science and technology to create better plant-based alternatives to cheese. However, Noquo found that in practice this angle didn’t resonate with consumers as much as the ‘artisan’ and ‘fermented’ nature of their vegan cheeses. This is where a plant-based PR firm, with insider knowledge of the most successful strategies that resonate with consumers, would have come in handy, saving time and money in the long run.

The trend for vegan marketing agencies also means plant-based brands can team up with service providers who share their values and passion for a vegan lifestyle. Some vegan brands have admitted privately they would prefer to only hire vegans to do their branding and marketing. The majority of plant-based product owners also would prefer to contract marketing agencies with specific sector expertise, to get the best possible return on investment. 

 

Case Studies: The Saffron Society & Scout22

The Saffron Society bills itself as a marketing collective for people who want to live consciously. Based in the UK, the marketing company was founded in 2019 by Fleurie Forbes-Martin who realised that, despite the number of vegan product launches skyrocketing in the UK, there was a notable lack of vegan marketing and communications specialists to facilitate the astonishing growth happening in the sector. The agency works exclusively with vegan businesses selling products or services that do not harm or exploit animals. Forbes-Martin says the agency’s high level of tailored knowledge about veganism is what makes them stand out to brands: The Saffron Society understands, from first-hand experience, the complexities of veganism, and therefore how to steer clear of stereotyping and clichés in the branding work they offer to plant-based patrons. 

Scout22 is a US-based, full-service marketing agency that works only with what the company calls ‘conscious capitalist brands’. Plant-based companies form a large part of their portfolio and they’ve provided services to BlueNalu, who are making cultured seafood, Beyond Meat and Plant Power Fast Food. Founder and CEO Lori Amos describes her business as one of the world’s first boutique marketing and PR agencies that focuses on working within a specific niche of plant-based businesses. Scout22 continues to cement their reputation as one of the go-to agencies for plant-based brands - the founders recently announced plans to hold a mega vegan expo in California later this year (pandemic permitting). This is also a way for the agency to cement future relationships with vegan brands - Scout22 will provide PR and marketing services to the emerging businesses who exhibit at the expo included in the flat rate cost of the booth package. The agency illustrates how carving out an ultra-specific niche for your PR firm can pay off quickly.

 

Plant-based priorities: the importance of getting it right

We’ve learnt that getting your messaging right is crucial to success for plant- and cell-based products in a crowded market. And we’ve seen how specialist services well-versed in the vegan universe can help. Burger King’s venture into veganism offers a cautionary tale: in 2020, the QSR launched its vegan Rebel Whopper burger to great fanfare. However, it was quickly found to be unsuitable for vegans as it was cooked alongside meat products and its claim to be ‘plant-based’ and ‘no beef’ was swiftly banned by the UK’s advertising watchdog. Errors like this can damage a brand’s reputation, with long-lasting effects and sow distrust among vegan consumers. Burger King’s faux-pas underscores the role that vegan PR agencies can play in the market. Cell-based meat purveyor Good Meat is a prime example of plant-based branding done right: when a brand - and their PR agency - knows every inch of their target market and tailors their messaging accordingly, it shows. While specialist services can cost more upfront, avoiding mistakes and keeping your desired customers on side is likely to pay off many times over in the long-term.

 

The 30-second pitch: Plant-based PR  

💻 What

  • More agencies, consultants and service providers are specifically targeting vegan and alt-protein companies to provide tailored marketing and PR expertise.

🤷‍♂️ Why

  • The growing number of vegans and flexeterians - and as a result, vegan product launches - is the key driver of the trend for specialist plant-based PR and marketing agencies. 

✏️ How

  • Vegan marketing and PR agencies, consultants and service providers that are specifically targeting plant-based and cell-based meat brands.

👀 Who

👍 The good

  • By honing in on a specific niche, plant-based PR and marketing agencies can sharpen their expertise and may find it easier to reach their desired clients.
  • The trend for vegan marketing agencies means plant-based brands can team up with service providers who share their values and passion for a vegan lifestyle - and vice-versa.
  • Cell-based meat companies have seen a great deal of investment in recent years and their healthy finances mean they’re likely to have funds available to invest in tailored marketing expertise.

👎 The bad 

  • Marketing agencies targeting an ultra-specific niche may be less resilient than firms which have a broader customer base.
  • Brands that don’t align their product correctly the first time are likely to lose favour and trust among potential customers - Burger King’s Rebel Whopper controversy underscores the need to get your plant-based marketing strategy right first-time round.
  • Cell-based meat has a way to go before it is widely accepted among consumers and getting the positioning right is crucial.

💡 The bottom line 

  • As the cultured meat segment grows and moves towards regulatory approval, the question of how to market lab-grown meat to consumers - particularly the more skeptical - is also becoming more important. While specialist marketing services can potentially cost more upfront, avoiding mistakes and keeping your desired customers on side is likely to pay off many times over in the long-term.
The FoodTech news you need to know ✉️
Every Monday (12pm CET) & Friday (1pm CET) in your inbox