Decoding Brand Naming Strategies of Plant-based Meat Brands

Min Li Chan

Senior Brand Strategist, Labbrand Singapore

In 2019, “plant-based” is observed to be one of the top food trends that are shaping transformative dietary changes globally. Unlike “vegan” that requires complete avoidance of animal products in all forms, the “plant-based” proposition has been an easier sell to consumers as an extension of one’s diet to consume more food produce made of vegetables and make occasional swaps to meatless products.

The increasing popularity of plant-based products, especially plant-based meat, can be attributed largely to its positive contribution to consumers’ health and the environment. Research has shown that eating lesser meat contribute positively to addressing climate change issues with the reduction of carbon dioxide emission from livestock agriculture. Hence, brands within the category, from new players such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Food, or long-time players like MorningStar Farms or Quorn, have been actively promoting environmental sustainability in their brand purpose and/or communication.

Interesting, this proposition is largely unseen within their brand name – the gateway and carrier of all brand equity. Here’s why. 

Non-exhaustive list of brands within the plant-based meat category

When it comes to food, taste and texture triumphs everything

A key evaluation aspect of brand name testing and selection is its level of appeal. For food brands, its attractiveness is highly associated with how it evokes an umami tasting experience to the consumers. Being a relatively new product category, consumers are naturally curious about the tastiness of “plant-based” products. Hence, brands within the category will usually avoid direct reference of “meatless” or “meat-free” in their brand name to avoid the negative connotation of the lack of taste. Instead, brands are observed to use words that evoke a sensorial experience such as Field Roast, Omnipork or Tofurky. The mention of the ingredient and or the food preparation method not only bridge category relevance, but also enable the consumer to make a direct inference of what the brand is about, and how it can be integrated into their diet. 

It’s “Better for you” over “Better for the planet”

As the objective of a brand name is for consumers to easily identify and differentiate your brand against others, they need to grasp the proposition/benefit that the brand is advocating effortlessly. Though “environmental sustainability” is the idea that is fundamental to the purpose of most plant-based meat brands, it is too farfetched and impersonal for some consumers as they are unable to see tangible results from their effort.

Hence, what some brands within the category have chosen to do is to communicate the “better for you” benefit and provide a direct link on the vigor of one’s health from its brand name. For example, Lightlife, Simply Balanced, Whole Perfect. Through such names, brands made it easier for consumers to visualize the impact of their dietary changes to plant-based products, and thereby increase their receptivity towards it. 

Examples of product packaging and marketing messages from Lightlife, Simply Balanced & Whole Perfect

“Novelty” turns heads and aids in recall

In addition to being appealing and relevant to consumers/industry, brand names also need to be distinctive and memorable to capture consumer attention at a glance and aid in bridging brand recall. To be differentiated from existing brands in the markets, new entrant brands within the category are observed to have named themselves with an element of surprise or potentiality.

For example, Impossible Food and Moving Mountains. Through the combination of ironic words, the brands illustrate the paradoxical trait of being a plant-based meat substitute in their brand names to spark curiosity and generate interest amongst consumers.

Example of brands embracing the paradoxical/futuristic approach in their brand name

Other examples include Beyond Meat and Before the Butcher. The verbal identity of these brands is anchored on the advancement of technology to create radical plant-based meat products that look and taste like real meat. Capitalizing on the idea of moving on to the future/something unknown, these brands draw consumers in with the use of words to suggest new/endless possibilities in their brand names. 

Pick the right strategy for your brand name

Having said the above, it does not mean that plant-based meat brands can’t communicate the idea of environmental sustainability in their brand name. Some brands, e.g. Sweet Earth, Good Catch still do, as it is a clear representation of the brand’s vision and what they seek out to achieve. While it is a visionary choice, it is also taking a more challenging route as the market today is still not ready for food and beverage brands to communicate such stretched aspirational proposition in their brand verbal identity.

The brand name is a key representation of a brand. While it is good to communicate aspirational benefits in its brand identity which would strengthen the brand’s purposeful positioning and showcase its commitment to the cause, it is also important to factor in considerations like existing market conditions and market readiness. After all, the brand name is not just an intellectual property asset of the brand, but also the verbal identity that consumers are going to know you by. 

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