When strolling the aisles of your local grocery store, you most likely can’t go more than a few feet without seeing packaging or signage boasting products being plant-based. Whether it’s beverages, snacks, even beauty products, the buzzword is (and has been) everywhere. We’re seeing this shift toward everything being plant-based continue to dominate the shelves and it brings up a larger question: in this plant-based evolution, what are the original plants? Fruits and vegetables.
As a produce marketer, I spend my days keeping up with the latest trends not only by browsing store shelves, but also conducting keyword research. When searching plant-forward on Google Trends, it returns no related queries, whereas the keyword plant-based returns a plethora of relevant queries. In the past 12 months the top related queries included plant-based Reese’s, Coffee Mate plant-based creamer, Chick-fil-a plant-based sandwich and plant-based whipped cream. This quick two-minute search tells us a couple things:
- Consumers have shifted from the plant-forward narrative that was growing a few years ago and are now jumping with both feet in on the plant-based trends.
- It’s clear that the consumer-packaged goods industry dominates this keyword search.
As a quick refresher on terminology according to the Have A Plant Plant-Forward Eating Guide, plant-forward is more comprehensive and refers to eating a diet that includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains and a variety of wholesome, nutrient-packed foods such as legumes, nuts and seeds, edamame and tofu, as well as low-fat milk and dairy products, seafood, lean meat, poultry and eggs. Whereas plant-based is used more specifically to define plant-based food products on the market. Any food product made with 100 percent plants is a plant-based food, such as chickpea-based or pea-protein meats or nut milks and soy products. Most importantly, what is more plant-based than plants? This trending term also includes produce in any form (fresh, frozen, canned, dried and juice). This is where we come into play.
If people are thinking plant-based Reese’s instead of fruits and vegetables when they’re thinking about plant-based then the produce industry has an opportunity to put fruits and vegetables at the center of the plant-based conversation. Here are my top five suggestions for produce industry marketers to help the original plants, fruits and vegetables, claim their space at the base of the plant-based market:
- When creating recipes for consumers, make vegetables, beans and grains the focal point of an entrée. A salad, hearty stew or casserole featuring nutrient-rich vegetables, whole grains and lean meat can be the main event.
- If creating a menu or merchandising a retail grab-and-go station, focus on the message of starting a meal with plants. Serving soups, salads, cut fruits and vegetables at the start of the meal when hunger is the greatest has been shown to increase overall produce consumption.
- When creating campaign messaging or front-of-pack labeling, consider sharing the specific functional benefits of the nutritional components that fruits and vegetables bring. For example, Bell peppers boost immunity due to their high vitamin C content.
- Consider creating banner ads for e-commerce sites and/or in-store endcaps that feature displays of produce along with other plant-based products and small educational tidbits related to the products. Think of creative ways to cross-merchandise throughout the store, as well. For example, placing bagged salad near the deli case or fruit and veggie trays near the birthday cakes.
- When creating social media posts focus on ways to make fruit and vegetable consumption easy on the consumer. Share hacks, like cook once, use twice type of recipes, or how to prepare and store certain types of produce. Consider creative ways to put a produce twist on viral recipe videos to continue to get fruits and vegetables to the center of the plate.
We can all agree — enjoying more plant foods as part of balanced meals and snacks makes for healthier, happier lives. As we all continue to collaborate and join forces on sharing the power of produce, we’ll close that gap, and the original plants will shine through to dominate the plant-based lifestyle.