Quorn repositions as sustainable choice with focus on carbon footprint

New TV campaign draws attention to brand's unique status of publishing carbon footprint of its products.

Quorn: advertising focused on making positive choice for environment
Quorn: advertising focused on making positive choice for environment

Quorn is launching a campaign that will for the first time promote the meat-alternative brand as a sustainable choice. 

"Take a step in the right direction" will air on TV for the first time tomorrow (10 January) evening during Jamie & Jimmy's Friday Night Feast on Channel 4 and will also be shown over the weekend during The Masked Singer and the first episode of the winter Love Island, both on ITV. 

It was created by Billy Mawhinney at Mawhinney Collins, and produced by Outsider and Shaw Productions. The media agency is Initiative. The brand will spend £15m on media this year, with the bulk of that going towards TV. 

Speaking to Campaign, Quorn marketing director Alex Glen said that while previous marketing for Quorn had often focused on its health credentials, this campaign was inspired by rapid changes in the mindset of consumers, who have become increasingly aware of the environmental impact of food production, particularly meat. 

"We’ve been working on carbon footprinting since 2012 and it’s a process that takes a lot of diligence," he said. Quorn is working with the Carbon Trust to accredit its carbon footprint measurement and reduction efforts, and says it is the only meat-free brand in the world to do so.

"We started to see consumer shifts over the last two years and our hunch was that consumers would very much catch up over the next two to three years," Glen continued. "What surprised us is how quickly this debate has started in the media."

He said that coverage of the devastating fires in Brazil and Australia, the school strikes led by Greta Thunberg and the eye-catching protests of Extinction Rebellion had driven up understanding of the risks posed by current levels of carbon emissions – of which 26% worldwide currently comes from food production.

That awareness has transformed into a desire from people to change their own behaviour, Glen said, pointing to YouGov data showing that more than half (53%) of consumers aimed to cut their meat consumption in some way (up eight points year on year), while almost half (46%) recognised the need to reduce meat eating to reduce the environmental impact of their diets. 

Pleased to not meat you

Glen said that the majority of Quorn consumers – about 70% – are meat eaters. But only around a quarter of the UK currently buys Quorn, meaning there is a big opportunity to grow by attracting those looking to occasionally replace meat.

While the initial creative features Quorn mince, other executions featuring different products but the same messaging will appear on TV periodically throughout the year. This is an approach that Glen said would drive recency – an important factor for consumers that "dip in and out of the category". 

Quorn had opted for a straightforward creative execution because carbon footprint reduction was " a very complex issue we’re trying to get [across with] a simpler message", Glen explained. But he added: "Longer term, as we test different media, we’ll probably test different creative as we go. It’s something we’ll certainly keep an open mind to."

Sales of Quorn products were up 5.1% to £182m in the 12 months to September 2019, according to Nielsen data, while the category of meat-free brands saw sales grow 18% to £405m, with competitor brands Vivera and Fry’s both more than tripling sales in the same period to £12.1m and £5.6m respectively.

Glen said he welcomed the new competition. "If you take a step back and go ‘meat reduction is important for the planet’ – the gang’s got to get bigger. That will involve more competitors, more competition and therefore it’s a good thing. Our role is to make sure we’re leading more and more people into the category."

While new entrants such as Impossible Foods are often positioned as premium (with a price to match) and technologically advanced, Glen is not concerned that Quorn could end up looking ordinary in comparison.

"We started this 30 years ago and it was really unique at the time," he said. "For that, you have to be different and have a different point of view. As we’re moving into this campaign, we’re doing exactly the same thing – talking about a new category benefit and taking the lead in this category. 

"It’s trailblazing: there’s no-one else in food talking about the impact of carbon. As we talk about these things, we hope we’ll get the credit for leading a conversation in a different way." He added that although some of the product range is well-established, it was continuing to invest in R&D, with the brand last year launching a range of vegan fish alternatives. 

Rolling in it

Last year, Quorn teamed up with Greggs to launch the bakery chain’s vegan sausage roll – a smash hit described by Campaign as the product launch of the year. This month, the pair have added a vegan steak bake, while Quorn is supplying products for two other partnerships: a vegan burger at KFC and a vegan ham-and-cheese toastie at Costa Coffee. 

"It’s fantastic to be working with Greggs," Glen said. "If your objective is to encourage meat reduction, being able to do it through everyday affordable food is amazing."

He added that Greggs had done an "amazing" job launching the sausage roll and said coverage had been great for getting Quorn on people’s radars. Glen said: "We get referenced – we’re not the lead in the stories, but fairly quickly you get into ‘it’s provided by Quorn’. It also helps from a consumer base perspective, because we’re able to talk about it to our consumers and hopefully drive people in."

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