Rather than look at plant-based food as a trend, think of it as a health and lifestyle movement that’s not going anywhere but up.
All you have to do is look at the list of fast food and fast-casual franchise brands that are adding plant-based food options to their menus. It’s a growing list containing some of the most successful franchise brands like Blaze Pizza, Burger King, Hooters, Melting Pot and Taco Bell.
Americans are embracing, and loving, plant-based food options. Numbers don’t lie, and according to the Plant Based Foods Association, sales of plant-based meats continue to increase while animal-based meat sales continue to decline. The most recent figures show that even during the COVID-19 pandemic, plant-based meat numbers were up 149 per cent over last year’s sales.
More importantly, the consumers buying meat-free products aren’t only vegan or vegetarian. The vast majority still eat meat, but they also want to eat better. And in light of recent meat shortages and illnesses linked to animal meat, more Americans are looking for plant-based alternatives for safety reasons. A survey by Rethink Priorities and the Humane Society of the United States in May revealed that 52 per cent of the respondents thought the food industry should focus more on meat-free foods.
If your franchise restaurant or fast food brand isn’t already investigating how to add vegan options to its menu, it’s time to start. If your franchise does offer vegan or meat-free items, now is the time to let consumers know that your brand gives them choices. There are many ways to promote your vegan and plant-based menu items to the public, but in the competitive world of restaurants and fast food franchises, you’ll need to be more strategic and more persistent than everyone else.
Some restaurants have been hit hard by COVID-19, but franchise restaurants that were able to change quickly and adapt to shifts in the marketplace and in consumer food preferences were able to do OK—some even prospered. The key is presenting your plant-based menu news to the right audience, at the right time, and on the right platform. The best way to get noticed is by working with a respected franchise public relations firm that specializes in vegan and plant-based businesses.
Public Relations draws attention to your plant-based menu items by:
- helping your brand obtain earned news coverage in high-profile publications and online platforms. News is trusted far more than paid advertisements
- mapping out your strategic campaigns so that all platforms are in sync and work together to create a cohesive PR plan of action that delivers a successful return on investment
- positioning you and your franchise as industry experts, helping your brand gain industry trust and admiration through speaking engagements and interviews in established industry channels
- directing your franchise brand’s social media image and perfecting your reputation with your target audience.
Expertise in the franchise world and in vegan businesses is important for your communications team because they already know your business, have deep industry relationships, and can get your story before the people who are interested in hearing it.
There are a lot of PR experts who work with businesses to raise awareness and increase the potential for boosting your top line, but be sure the PR firm you hire has credentials to back up what they say. Not all are created equal, and in an increasingly competitive marketplace like vegan and plant-based foods, some firms may be hoping to increase their vegan client base without having real-world experience in this growing industry.
Before you make the final decision about your PR partner (and I recommend you treat your PR firm as a true business partner) check with the agency’s clients, read testimonials, and review the work they have done with franchise businesses you are familiar with. Vegan and plant-based PR is a very specialized discipline, but the right PR partner can differentiate your business from the competition and make your brand stand out.
Heather Ripley is CEO of Ripley PR, a global public relations agency specializing in B2B and franchising. Orange Orchard, a division of Ripley PR, champions franchisors that cater to environmentally-conscious consumers. For additional information, visit www.ripleypr.com or www.orangeorchardpr.com.