Plant-Based Branding

With the news that Oatly’s dairy-free soft serve will be served at Major League Baseball stadiums this summer, it seems safe to say that vegan and plant-based options are hitting the mainstream in a big way. And, brands are taking note. Just in the past couple of years, we’ve seen some big brands offer consumers plant-based options with impressive sales results.

Whether for the environment, ethical beliefs, or health concerns, American consumers are increasingly going vegan. Recent data shows that an estimated 9.7 million Americans are vegan. Many more are making an effort to reduce their intake of animal products, even if they’re not quitting meat cold-turkey. A poll in 2020 discovered that 1 in 4 Americans have been cutting back on their meat consumption. As both national and local brands market more plant-based options, they are reaching audiences beyond strict vegans.

Nationwide, carnivores and herbivores agree about one beloved chain: Taco Bell has become the unlikely hero of fast food for the vegan community. With the option to make it “fresco style”, patrons can switch out meat and sour cream with a delicious salsa. This simple phrase, plus optional beans and potatoes, renders a large portion of their menu veggie-friendly. Taco Bell is even teaming up with Beyond Meat to create a plant-based protein of their very own. 

Burger King’s launch of the Impossible Whopper made headlines––and led to their best sales quarter in four years. Competitors like McDonald’s and Wendy’s that don’t currently offer vegan options (save for…a plain salad with no dressing?) are missing out on a growing (and vocal) consumer base.

The plant-based movement isn’t limited to meat; companies are offering more dairy-free products, too. Ben and Jerry’s, which has always been an incredible example of how brands can drive meaningful change, offers over 15 non-dairy pints. Recently, both Dunkin’ and Starbucks started serving oat milk; yet another nod to the urgency for veggie-friendly options.

Locally, plenty of Philly restaurants have added vegan options to the menu. Popular spots like Front Street Cafe in Fishtown, Tomo Sushi and Ramen in Old City, Triangle Tavern in South Philly, and Vegan-ish in West Philly, offer vegan fare in addition to non-plant-based dishes. You can even get a vegan-ized classic Philly cheesesteak at Joe’s Steaks in Fishtown. If a sandwich with “cheese” and “steak” in the name can be made entirely plant-based, anything is possible.

So, what does all this mean for brands that don’t have vegan options? Will we see more brands pivot and offer vegan alternatives? If veganism continues to rise among consumers, brands that have historically been reliant on meat products might soon need to adapt to this growing market. (How will Chick-fil-A advertise a plant-based product? Will their iconic bovine mascots hold signs painted “Eat Mor Plants” instead? We’ll just have to wait and see…)

Veganism and the food industry are just one example of how brands may need to rethink their products. As important as it is to have a strong brand identity, it’s also important to keep a pulse on what consumers actually want. It’s a tricky balance, but the team here at Tag can help!