Full disclosure before going further: I can’t classify myself vegetarian, but the majority of my diet is and I am quite sensitive to animal wellbeing. I guess we could say I try to practice “sustainable eating” – meaning I tend to avoid factory farmed meat and try to adopt a vegetarian diet as much as possible, but I can’t resist a tender organic beef eye fillet.
Recently, I have often been exposed to the opinion of the two rival clans: the meat lovers vs. the vegos (and vegans). And they are rarely nuanced.
On one hand, I see meat lovers making fun of vegos and vegans as if they were some weirdos living in the peace & love era. The ones who can’t conceive that a meal without meat is actually a complete meal. And I understand my vegan friends to be upset by this attitude.
On the other hand, I witness vegetarians and vegans display a judgy attitude towards anyone not following what they believe is the “right diet.” You know, that friend that inundates your Facebook feed of videos showing how eating meat is unnatural? But will they convince anyone with these attitudes and arguments?
Don’t get me wrong, I get it. We probably eat too much meat, and factory farming (especially in the U.S.) is both bad for the environment and scandalous in terms of animal cruelty. But does trying to make people feel guilty to eat steak has a high chance to change behaviours in the long term? The guilt approach is typically the one that works when someone wants to lose weight. And guess what? It usually works for a few days (ok, maybe a few weeks), but it doesn’t last. Why? Because eventually you get tired of penalising yourself. And that’s probably how meat eaters see vegetarian meals: penalising themselves.
Which makes me wonder: do vegos have the right communication strategy? If they want to convince more people to adopt a vegetarian diet, shouldn’t they pitch this from a more positive angle? How about making people realise that vegetarian meals can actually be delicious? I’d be curious to do more research on that topic, but my gut feeling is that the perception that vegetarian meals are “not as good” is a very strong barrier to include more of them in people’s diet. We know from our work in food trends about the shift towards ‘real food’ with wholesome goodness: it’s a vegan’s time to shine. And the light might not come from guilt, but from pleasure.
Author: Marc-Andre Savard, Senior Consultant at Harvest Insights, a food & beverage market research consultancy helping brands design the products and services that their consumers want and need.
** Note: this article reflects the opinion of the author only and doesn’t necessarily represents the opinion of Harvest Insights.