After an initial and almighty burst, particularly after the launch of Beyond Meat in 2012, sales of plant-based protein have been in the doldrums lately. Of course, this could be down to enthusiastic first-timers deciding the taste just wasn’t for them, but recent research also shows environmental ads can put potential buyers off this kind of food.

The environmental benefits of eating less meat are well known, but that doesn’t mean plant-based food companies should focus on that point when advertising their products, says Jennifer Yule of the University of Edinburgh. She worked with Krista Hill Cummings of Babson College in Massachusetts to research the link between a person’s politics and their desire to try or buy plant-based meat.

The study shows a “political divide in views about plant-based meat,” Yule explains, with conservative consumers less likely than liberals to try or even consider it. While talking about taste and health in ads appealed to both the liberal and conservative consumers polled, the environment divided Yule and Cummings’ survey participants.

Plant-based meat companies can use this information to promote their products amid stagnating sales, Yule explains. But it also indicates how polarizing the issue of climate change has become more generally – and that’s something all businesses need to think about these days. Concerns about climate change have long caused certain people to choose to live more sustainably, but opinions on the environment now go way beyond the ballot box on both ends of the political spectrum.

Pauline McCallion

Senior Business Editor, The Conversation U.K.

Plant-based meat sales are stagnating – our research suggests playing down its green benefits could attract more consumers

Jennifer Yule, The University of Edinburgh

US study shows environmental messages can put conservative consumers off trying and buying plant-based products.

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