There is a known correlation between eating animal meat and negative environmental consequences, and as a result there has been a growing market for plant-based meat alternatives that mimic the texture and taste of meat. Whilst this market is buoyant, there is a notable group of American consumers who are unwilling to engage in plant-based alternatives.
Plant-based burger, with a side of potato fries

New research led by the University of Edinburgh Business School has found that American consumers who identify as Republican are being presented with advertising content that does not resonate with them.

Whilst plant-based meat companies currently frame their advertising content using arguments for health, taste and the environment to promote their products, these environmental messages are incongruent to conservative consumers.

Jennifer Yule, lead author on the paper and Lecturer in Marketing, said: ‘What we’ve found is that environmental messaging is not of interest to an American conservative audience. Environmental content acts as a barrier to this audience engaging any further with the content, and as a result they don’t learn about the products or move forward in their decision process to try plant-based meat.’

The perception that plant-based meat is a ‘woke’ issue has enabled this market to become more politicised over the years, with many characterising it as a ‘left’ leaning product.

‘This is a problematic finding,’ continues Yule. ‘Plant-based meat offers a viable alternative to meat in taste and texture, but if it’s unappealing based on image to a large sector of the population then this presents a problem for both health and environmental reasons, as well as from an economic perspective for the plant-based industry.’

The knowledge that plant-based meat companies could use political ideology for market segmentation could impact how the meat-free industry can positively engage with the conservative consumer.

Read the full paper: Conservative consumer disinterest in plant-based meat: A problem of message incongruence

Jennifer Yule

Jennifer Yule is our Lecturer in Marketing.