Old habits live better: How healthy food brands are changing what we eat
By Senior Planner, Caroline Olechowski
Vegan, gluten-free, protein-rich – everyone’s talking about eating better in 2019. But are we really tucking into our veggies, or just talking the talk? We’ve looked at some of the fastest growing healthy food brands to find out how they’re inspiring consumers to act on their healthy intentions.
Even if you weren’t one of the 250,000 people participating in Veganuary this year, you no doubt heard about it.
Chances are you also heard about Greggs’ vegan sausage roll. The unlikely innovation from the not-so-healthy bakery chain took social media by storm, even prompting angry tweets from Piers Morgan. The high-profile hater only succeeded in drawing even more attention to the Quorn-filled pastry. At the time of writing, the launch video has over 5M views on Twitter alone.
But did all this social media buzz translate into ringing tills? According to Greggs it did. The chain reported an ‘exceptional’ 11% rise in like-for-like sale in the 19 weeks to 11 May. “More people are coming, said Greggs’ Chief Executive, Roger Whiteside. “Awareness of the brand has never been higher and the vegan roll has helped with publicity and encouraging people to come and have a look at what we’re doing.”
If nothing else, Greggs has shown that by aligning your brand to a healthy eating mindset, you can arouse curiosity, attract attention and drive footfall.
Making healthy eating as easy (and appealing) as a piece of (carrot) cake
But what about our everyday eating habits? Changing habitual, ingrained behaviour is no easy feat. In a recent piece of primary research by the team here at Guy & Co, consumers told us that eating healthy, balanced meals was important to them, but that busy lives meant they often struggled to turn these good intentions into action. So how can brands overcome these behavioural barriers?
In 2018 Tesco launched Wicked Kitchen, its range of plant-based ready meals. After sales of chilled vegan foods increased by 25%, the retailer doubled the size of the range later that year. The new products aim to attract those ‘looking for on-the-go delicious snacks such as a plant-based sausage roll, pie or pasty as well as dessert lovers.’
Or consider AllPlants, a London-based start-up which aims to make it ‘effortlessly easy to eat more plants’ has already served over 250,000 meals nationwide. Consumers can order its ready-made vegan meals as a one-off or on a subscription basis. Proving that investors are willing to bet their funds on healthier diets, the young brand raised £7.5M in Series A funding last year.
Old (unhealthy) habits die hard
These successful brands don’t just present themselves as a healthy choice. They make healthier choices more convenient, so that consumers can easily act on their good intentions.
But they also turn healthy ingredients into meals more akin to junk food than virtuous veggies.
Greggs’ vegan sausage roll, and dishes like Wicked Kitchen’s ‘Filthy Fiery Fries’ and AllPlants’ ‘Cashew Mac and Cheese’, make ‘bad for you’ food feel more like a guilt-free treat, just by virtue of being vegan.
Instead of asking us to make big changes to our eating behaviours, Tesco, AllPlants and Greggs make it easier for us to do what we’ve always done. We can still buy a ready meal at the end of a long day, or treat ourselves to our favourite comfort food, but we will feel a little bit better knowing that we’ve made a ‘healthy’ choice.
The moral of the story provides a lesson for all types of brands: if you’re driving new behaviours, pick your battles. Don’t ask people to change too many habits at once. Instead, use existing consumer habits to make change easier.