With calls to reduce the amount of meat we eat to save the planet; can the meat industry diversify to play its part in the fight against climate change and maintain its business?
It’s funny. I’ve been a vegetarian for around 33 years now. All my ‘veggie life’ I’ve been ruthlessly questioned: “why don’t you eat meat?”; “do you wear leather?”, “do fish have feelings?”. But for the first time ever, the questions have stopped. It’s finally acceptable to be a vegetarian. I’m no longer the minority at mealtimes. In fact, if you take the latest UN advice, being a veggie (or ideally vegan) will soon become not just a choice, but a necessity to save the planet.
But if more and more people adopt this way of life (as I’m already seeing) what will that mean for the meat industry? Are we heading to a world without cows? Or will the meat industry try to diversify and extend their business into other plant-and-planet-friendly areas?
It’s a good question. Plenty of brands have diversified their business with great success (look at Virgin). And BP are currently piling huge amounts into renewable energies. But can the meat industry follow suit? However good the offer, I can’t imagine comfortably engaging with a brand that once processed animals. But why not? Shouldn’t anyone trying to diversify, adapt and thrive be given a chance? Especially when we face not just ecological ruin, but also uncertain economic futures.
I guess the answer should be yes – BUT only if trust and belief in that brand are present. For me, that means a brand remains true to its brand purpose, with the same values and standards present throughout diversification. Above all, it’s about being authentic, not pretending to be something that you’re not. For the meat industry, I just don’t believe that is possible.
There have been brands in the food industry that have made very successful attempts at diversifying their ranges. Look at Greggs, reporting a 58% rise in profits in the first half of the year. They made a few adjustments to their range and introduced some healthier options. But at no point did they stray too far from what they were great at – consistent standards, at a really good price. The introduction of the vegan sausage roll caused a storm that piqued the interest of new customers, many of whom were previous Greggs nay-sayers. They came out of curiosity and stayed for the experience.
We live in exceptional times. To survive, I wonder how business and brands will respond with different models, different thinking and – especially – different economic models. All whilst remaining true to purpose. We could be about to witness the biggest and most creative shift seen in our lifetimes. But can the meat industry respond and be successful? This jury is out. Veggie burger, anyone?