There's been a lot of buzz lately about restaurant chains across the U.S. adding vegan and vegetarian options to their menu. And with new plant-based "meat" suppliers on the market such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, it's becoming easier for more restaurants to provide meat-alternatives to their guests.
The reception thus far has been positive to say the least.
KFC recently partnered with Beyond Meat to pilot offering a plant-based menu-item at one of its locations in Atlanta. That plant-based chicken sold out in just five hours.
Earlier this summer, Burger King piloted the Impossible Burger, a plant-based version of their hamburgers, in partnership with Impossible Foods. They've since rolled out a national release of the meatless burger.
And while there has been a lot of fan-fare around the new plant-based options, it is important to note that this is a lesson in the power of inclusive marketing.
As marketers and business leaders, the more you provide options to accommodate the varying needs and preferences of the customers we serve, the more you will create products, services and experiences that make them feel like they belong with you.
The result will be a broadened customer base, as you're equipped to effectively serve an entire group of customers who have long been ignored. The plant-based food market is $4.5 billion, and growing at 11 percent over the past year, according to the Plant Based Foods Association.
Previously, if people who were vegetarian or vegan wanted to eat fast food, popular chains like KFC, Burger King, and many other restaurants had limited or no options available to them.
As someone who has a dietary restriction, it's hard planning out meals, especially on the go and in social situations. I certainly never want to be "that person" the one that everyone has to accommodate because I eat gluten-free. As a result, fast or quick restaurant options are often off-limits.
And when I do go out to restaurants with friends and family, it comes only after scoping out the menus of places in advance to ensure there will be sufficient options for me to eat.
But that becomes less of an issue when restaurants plan to be inclusive by having ample options available for me and other people with dietary restrictions. Not only do I feel welcome in those types of establishments, but it makes it easier on my friends and loved ones too.
Business is about belonging. And when you make the decision to invest your resources to ensure that you're able to serve a more diverse group of customers, you set the stage to not only grow your business, but to make life better for a number of people in the process.
Here are two key lessons from KFC and Burger King's introduction of plant-based options, that can help you in your quest to be more inclusive in your marketing.
Partnerships are important
KFC, Burger King, and many other restaurants knew their expertise wasn't plant-based food. But instead of just saying "we don't have the capabilities to serve these customers," they partnered with companies that did have that expertise. As a result, they were able to serve the market faster, and much more efficiently.
As you start to consider how to serve more diverse customers, you may find that there are changes that need to be made to your existing product offering, your processes, or even the way you communicate.
Don't let any deficiencies in your capabilities stop you from getting started. Look for the right partners to help accelerate your entry into the market.
Test and learn
Neither KFC or Burger King went full force with their plant-based offerings right away. They piloted the new products on a small scale first to guage demand. Throughout that testing phase, a number of other key lessons popped up as well.
For instance, Burger King received lots of social media feedback that the "Impossible Burgers" couldn't really be considered vegan or vegetarian, because they were cooked on the same grill as the meat products.
Misleading, big fail from @BurgerKing for the new Impossible Whopper. ", 0% Beef. *Flame-grilled in the same broiler used for beef and chicken"
...So not 0% beef then. Won't touch this crap until you change this policy. @VegTimes@vegsoc@vegan@TheVeganSociety@VLmagazine
— Mike Ewer
As the consumer base increasingly becomes more diverse in a multitude of ways, it will become harder for brands to survive by only catering to the masses. Inclusive marketing isn't only the right thing to do, it is increasingly becoming the baseline way of doing business.
Make sure your brand gets ahead of the curve.
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