Plant-based Meat – A Hit or a Miss? Digital Consumer Intelligence using AI technologies

Gaining deep consumer and category insights on the plant-based meat industry through social media analytics, AI-enabled text analytics, and semantic network analysis

By Shruti Mohan, Parul Verma and Navin Nayanar

Key Insights

As the plant-based meat industry grows, many companies have been trying to gauge consumer sentiments and category dynamics around the product.

  • Do people like it?
  • Is it a viable business?
  • Who are the key players?
  • What’s the best approach to market?

The aim was to understand:

  • People’s attitudes towards plant-based meat
  • Segments of audiences who were talking about plant-based food on social media
  • Brand equity of top 5 brands in the space using Course5’s ‘Social Brand Equity Framework’

The Social Media Analytics team at Course5 Intelligence prepared a deep-dive report on the product category.

We used a combination of Social Media Intelligence, Data Engineering, Advanced Analytics and Artificial Intelligence capabilities to provide a granular understanding of the consumer and the market.

Leveraged AI technologies like Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing for Advanced Text Analytics using Semantic Network Analysis and Sentiment and Emotion Analysis

Our Methodology

Digital and Social Media Data

For this report, we gleaned consumer insights on plant-based meat from online digital and social media data for the period February 1, 2021 – January 31, 2022. The sources used include various global social media platforms, discussion forums, product review channels, analytics from the official brand websites and online search data.

As the plant-based meat industry grows, many companies have been trying to gauge consumer sentiments and category dynamics around the product.

  • Do people like it?
  • Is it a viable business?
  • Who are the key players?
  • What’s the best approach to market?

The Social Media Analytics team at Course5 Intelligence prepared a deep-dive report on the product category.

The aim was to understand:

  • People’s attitudes towards plant-based meat
  • Segments of audiences who were talking about plant-based food on social media
  • Brand equity of top 5 brands in the space using Course5’s ‘Social Brand Equity Framework’

We used a combination of Social Media Intelligence, Data Engineering, Advanced Analytics and Artificial Intelligence capabilities to provide a granular understanding of the consumer and the market.

Leveraged AI technologies like Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing for Advanced Text Analytics using Semantic Network Analysis and Sentiment and Emotion Analysis

For this report, we gleaned consumer insights on plant-based meat from online digital and social media data for the period February 1, 2021 – January 31, 2022. The sources used include various global social media platforms, discussion forums, product review channels, analytics from the official brand websites and online search data.

Our Methodology

Digital and Social Media Data

Key Consumer Insights

  • 36% of mentions questioned whether highly processed plant-based meat at fast-food restaurants can be considered a healthy substitute for regular vegan/vegetarian food. However, 24% of mentions showed that plant-based meat is considered a healthy substitute for meat for vegetarians.
  • Mexican, Italian, and Chinese recipes were the most discussed cuisine recipes that used plant-based meat as an ingredient (9% of conversations).
  • 9% of the mentions showed that plant-based meat does not appeal to vegetarians/vegans, with 13% comments showing strong dislike for plant-based chicken served at fast-food restaurants.
  • 3% of mentions showed preference for real veggie burgers over plant-based burgers, with 4% mentions expressing displeasure at Burger King replacing veggie burgers with Impossible Burger.
  • The most negative comments around ingredients of plant-based meat were about their ‘flavor’ while the most positive comments were about their value as a ‘protein source’.
  • Burgers/sliders were the most mentioned products on social media, followed by nuggets.
  • High-opportunity products for brands looking for wider consumer adoption are grounds/crumbles/minced/pate due to their versatile nature.
  • Amongst the attributes of plant-based meat discussed, ‘flavor/ taste’, ‘health benefits’ and ‘price’ were the most mentioned.
  • Taste/flavor was the most talked about attribute, both positively and negatively, followed by health benefits and texture/feel across audience segments.

Granular insights on key audience segments

Positive Conversations by Key Audiences
Academics
0% 13% 44% 0% 0% 0% 6% 25% 0% 12% 0% 0%
Fitness Focused
6% 13% 38% 0% 3% 0% 6% 25% 3% 3% 0% 2%
Inclusivist Individuals
4% 13% 49% 1% 2% 2% 8% 13% 2% 4% 0.50% 1%
Conservative caregivers
2% 10% 46% 0% 3% 1% 8% 16% 6% 7% 0% 1%
Digital Hipsters
5% 8% 52% 2% 1% 2% 9% 17% 2% 2% 0% 0%
Creators
0% 0% 47% 0% 11% 0% 0% 32% 10% 0% 0% 0%
Culture enthusiasts
3% 16% 44% 1% 1% 1% 7% 20% 1% 5% 1% 0%

Number of comments on social media: Culture ethusiasts - 177; Creators-19 Digital hipsters - 133;Conservstion caregivers-160; Inclusivist individuals -213;Fitness Focused-32;Academics-16

Negative Conversations by Key Audiences
Academics
8% 12% 24% 4% 4% 0% 4% 20% 4% 20% 0% 0%
Fitness Focused
1% 6% 25% 2% 1% 0% 3% 36% 5% 18% 1% 2%
Inclusivist Individuals
1% 16% 36% 3% 0.50% 0.20% 4% 20% 3% 13% 1% 2%
Conservative caregivers
1% 10% 33% 3% 3% 0.50% 6% 18% 6% 14% 1% 4%
Digital Hipsters
2% 10% 39% 4% 1% 0.50% 4% 21% 6% 11% 0.50% 1%
Creators
1% 9% 33% 3% 0% 0% 8% 27% 5% 12% 0% 1%
Culture enthusiasts
1% 12% 35% 5% 1% 1% 3% 21% 5% 13% 0.40% 2%

Number of comments on social media: Culture ethusiasts - 302; Creators-75 Digital hipsters - 341;Conservstion caregivers-540; Inclusivist individuals -450;Fitness Focused-97;Academics-25

  • Appearance /Looks
  • Texture/feel
  • Taste/Flavor
  • Smell
  • Color
  • Cook time/ease of cooking
  • Versatility
  • Health benefits/Nutrients
  • Environment friendly
  • Price
  • Credentials
  • Packaging
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Snapshots of actual consumer comments that tell a nuanced story

"

Most vegans I know aren't big fans of fake meat, I think that the fake meat business is mostly for non-vegans to find some middle ground.

"
"

No way, the smell when it’s cooking is so meat like it makes me sick, I make my bf handle all the fake meat cause it kinda grosses me out

"
"

Impossible burger I'm making spaghetti sauce with it right now, and it's delicious! Use just like ground beef.

"
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Competition Analysis using Course5’s Social Brand Equity Framework
Positive Perceptions
Impossible Food
57% 9% 8% 8% 5% 3% 3% 2% 2% 1% 1% 1%
Beyond Meat
46% 10% 13% 7% 9% 1% 5% 2% 3% 2% 1% 0.20%
Gardein
39% 13% 14% 13% 6% 1% 4% 1% 5% 2% 1% 0.50%
Lightlife
36% 12% 11% 17% 9% 1% 1% 1% 4% 3% 3% 1%
Quorn
44% 14% 13% 12% 5% 1% 3% 1% 4% 2% 1% 0%

Number of positive mentions on social media: Beyond meat-16995; Impossible foods-14863,Quorn-4407; Gardein-3954,Lightitle-879

Negative Perceptions
Impossible Food
31% 17% 16% 13% 9% 4% 3% 2% 2% 1% 1% 1%
Beyond Meat
34% 16% 11% 14% 4% 7% 5% 4% 2% 1% 1% 1%
Gardein
33% 14% 16% 13% 4% 9.50% 1% 5% 2% 1% 0.50% 1%
Lightlife
26% 12% 24% 11% 4% 8% 2% 8% 3% 0.50% 0.20% 1%
Quorn
36% 17% 17% 10% 3% 7% 2% 3% 2% 1% 0.50% 1%

Number of negative mentions on social media: Beyond meat-12390; Impossible foods-11820,Quorn-2940; Gardein-1596,Lightitle-525

  • Taste/Flavor
  • Health benefits/Nutrients
  • Versatility
  • Texture/Feel
  • Price
  • Smell
  • Cook time/Ease of cooking
  • Environment friendly
  • Appearance / looks
  • Color
  • Packaging
  • Credentials

Brand-specific Consumer Insights

  • Gardein was the most positively talked about brand mainly due to the versatility and easy-to-make nature of some of their products.
  • Beyond Meat had the highest number of mentions among the 5 brands tracked. Beyond Meat had the maximum engagement on both Twitter and Facebook, and the average visit duration on Beyond Meat’s website was also the highest, suggesting that Beyond Meat has the highest brand affinity among all the brands.
  • Impossible Foods had the most negative mentions, most of it coming from the Impossible Burger served at fast food restaurants.
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Clear, data-backed recommendations for companies that want to enter or grow in this space

1

Consider new form factors. Consumers prefer versatility of use.

2

Address consumer concerns regarding the health benefits of their plant-based meat products

3

Have a clear messaging strategy on why consumers should use this product at all, when there are so many cheaper vegetarian options available.

When unprompted data from social media is integrated with data from other sources, the insights that organizations get are far closer to the truth than insights derived without social media data.

Social Media Intelligence

Add depth and context to insights.

Leverage digital and social data with Natural Language Processing (NLP), machine learning, automation technologies, and domain expertise

Find out more: https://www.course5i.com/social-media-intelligence/

Data Source: This report by Course5 Intelligence provides consumer insights on plant-based meat as derived from online digital and social media data, during the period February 1, 2021–January 31, 2022. The analysis was conducted using AI-driven social media analytics and text analytics with semantic network analysis, sentiment analysis, and emotion analysis. Of the 129,422 comments related to plant-based based meat tracked on social media during this period, a random sample of 20,000 comments was analyzed for Exhibits 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7. Individual queries were run for the other data shared in this report.