• Transform magazine
  • April 16, 2024

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‘Alternatives’ shouldn’t be marketed as such – quite the contrary, actually

Christian Halsted

Christian Halsted, strategy director and founding partner at Everland, discusses how naming is a good place to derive relevance for food brands that aim to save our ecosystem.

Simulate, Beyond Meat, Remilk, NotCo, Rebellyous, Future Farm… There is no shortage of companies producing alternative proteins. New brands emerge almost monthly, launching one innovative product after the other.

Some have managed to get noticeable investments and good press coverage. Still, the industry is struggling to go mainstream.

Nestlé just scrapped Wunda and Garden Gourmet, while innocent drinks pulled its plant-based milk from shelves. Why? They’re still an alternative, a substitute, and to many people, a compromise.

Don't remind me of what I'm missing out on

Remilk, Simulate, Like Meat, Unmeat. These brands share one thing; they emphasise being a substitute. It is a rational way of thinking. We’re kind of like meat, but not really, so let’s communicate that. However, from a communication perspective, it is pretty ineffective, as consumers don’t think the same linear way. We want to be seduced.

Speaking to actively substituting meat with a plant-based alternative might work with a select few ethically-driven consumers, but to take alternative protein mainstream will require a different approach. Kombucha didn’t become popular by being a kinder wine but being something entirely different.

In the name of taste and experience

A great consumer brand name sparks emotions. It tells a story, stands out and sticks in my mind. Rational names are often descriptive, direct and easy to understand. But they also have their limitations. “Brownish sugary liquid” doesn’t taste as good as Pepsi. ‘Fizz & Fun’ wouldn’t work either. Seems like many companies forgot about that when developing their plant protein brands.

Recently, I had the privilege of working with start-up Mwah!, making cashew-based gelato. When defining its name, the company wanted to speak directly to the tastebuds, not the brain. Mwah is the chef’s kiss and the ultimate gesture of superior taste experiences. It tells several stories and doesn’t limit the brand. Cashew Cow_ard simply wasn’t an option.

Naming isn’t the solution to lasting growth, but it’s a good place to start. Tesla succeeded by normalising the electrical car. If Elon Musk had called in Gasolinish it simply wouldn’t be as cool.

As long as brands keep marketing their product as a substitute, they will be substitutes. And who wants to buy the second-best thing? Rather, brands should focus on what makes them the best thing in their own right. And name it as such.