Sustainable marketing takeaways from alternative protein brands

From plant-based to cell-based, the alternative protein scene is not only reshaping the way we think about food but has also offered insights into applying brand and marketing strategies in approaching the topic of sustainability. Authentic storytelling is a must, given the calls for transparency. However, a recent study by GFK reveals a startling fact: over half of US consumers struggle to recall a single sustainable brand. Purpose-driven advertisements risk drowning in a sea of greenwashing.

Defining the right group

Interestingly, plant-based brands aren’t taking the easy route – vegans. Instead, they are targeting meat-eaters, seeking to change their consumption habits with options healthier for the planet. Even within this group, there’s a spectrum:

  • The Early Adopters: Motivated by curiosity, status, and a belief in science, these individuals are always on the lookout for something new.
  • The Pragmatists: Focused on taste, nutrition, and convenience, they need evidence that alternative proteins can match conventional options.
  • The Traditionalists: Driven by habit and cultural norms, they prefer familiar choices.

Source: EDB Singapore

Source: EDB Singapore

Source: Green Rebel Website

Indonesian plant-based food tech start-up, Green Rebel Foods, paves the way to mainstream with its defined audience. Not just focusing on the environmental and health benefits, but also on ready-to-cook products that take less than 10 minutes to prepare. This strategy resonates with the fast-paced world, where convenience is a driving force in consumer choices. By providing products that are easy to prepare and require minimal effort, Green Rebel removes barriers to entry for consumers seeking sustainable choices, allowing them to establish a strong presence among upper middle-class Indonesians.

Takeaway for Brands: With a clear understanding of the diverse motivations within their target audience, brands can tailor their messaging to resonate effectively. Yet, the power of sustainability branding goes beyond identifying the right audience—it extends to the strategic partnerships that pave the way for impactful market entry.

Strategic partnerships

Green Rebel Foods not only knows whom they are targeting but also forges meaningful cultural connections through its recipes. Moreover, they strategically collaborate with restaurants and chefs to ease their way into new markets: Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and most recently, South Korea. While brand partnerships aren’t novel, their effectiveness is amplified when executed with precision.

"Our approach in each country is to delve into its most cherished and comforting dishes, then recreate them using our plant-based meats. We launch our products in collaboration with renowned chefs and premier restaurants to ensure broader accessibility and acceptance," shares Debra Raymond, Regional Brand Manager, APAC at Green Rebel Foods.

Green Rebel partners with local F&B establishments
Source: Green Rebel Foods facebook

On the local front, Singaporean brand Oatside has rapidly garnered a devoted following since its birth in 2022. Baristas have pointed out that Asians, and particularly Singaporean, coffee palate favours full-bodied, less acidic blends with nutty and malty undertones. To complement that, OATSIDE’s star product, the Barista Blend oat milk is made to be creamier and maltier than other plant milks.

No stranger to brand partnerships, Oatside has teamed up with a spectrum of establishments, from cafes, which are familiar collaborators, to the unexpected ally of Singapore Airlines, to extend its influence.

Takeaway for Brands: Recognise that your sustainability story isn’t confined to your products alone—it extends to the allies you join forces with. This collaborative ethos aligns with the very essence of sustainability—a shared responsibility that goes beyond individual entities. To incorporate sustainability, remember this: Successful partnerships amplify your reach, bolster your authenticity, and position you as a catalyst for change.

Understanding the true motivation

When Impossible Meat first ventured into restaurants, its reception was overwhelmingly positive. However, the transition from early adopters to the mainstream market came with its own set of challenges. Partnerships with fast food chains propelled it into broader visibility, yet this shift to mainstream also exposed it to intensified scrutiny. This scrutiny brought forth concerns about the ultra-processed nature of the product and GMO usage. Today, plant-based meat pioneers are in their decline. This brings the question: Are they eating it to curb carbon emissions or as a healthier alternative to processed meats such as sausages and burgers?

Source: Fooddive.com

Takeaway for Brands: Ensuring a successful transition from niche to mainstream requires a nuanced understanding of your audience’s underlying motivations. Resonating with consumers goes beyond aligning with broad sustainability goals. It means truly empowering them to embrace the lifestyle they aspire to.