Can consumers stomach the real trade-offs?

OPINION: Can consumers stomach the real trade-offs for fake meat?

Editorial
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Fake meat, are consumers buying it?

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Marketing is powerful, especially if it can evoke a feeling.

This is partly why there was such outrage in 2017 when Volkswagen was outed for cheating emissions tests.

People felt they were doing a good thing by buying and driving that car and then felt ripped off for having been hoodwinked - there was a 'bug' in their emotions.

But, what do you do though when the company is open about the fact its product is a fake - to the point that the fakeness is a cornerstone of its marketing, and people are buying it?

Fake meat is the prime example. It has gained market share through controversy.

If the word "meat" was banned from use in its marketing, then the word fake would become redundant and it would just be a highly processed piece of vegetable mush.

Controversy is the secret spice - but that aside, just how damaging could these fake foods really be?

Another real food with its own fan club of fakes is milk.

In March at the Rabobank Farm2Fork summit, the bank's Netherlands-based managing board member, Berry Marttin, explained why misleading marketing around food is not good for us, or the environment.

"If you look at 100 grams of milk, it produces 100g of CO2. But if you look at the most important thing, which is actually the nutrition density of milk, it's 50 (nutrients that we need daily). It's a very high nutrition density," he said.

"Let's look at the emission of soya drink - it has very low emissions (per unit of volume). But then let's look at the nutrition density of soya drink. The problem is it has only one or two nutrients that we need every day.

"So are we measuring the right thing? Nope. Are we telling the right story? What's better? Milk, or soya drink?"

To gain the same amount of nutrition from soya drink as from real milk, much more has to be consumed, which makes it a low value choice in terms of nutrition gained per unit of carbon output.

Fact doesn't sell as successfully as feeling because you have to think about it, rather than just react to it.

So if agriculture is to be successful in removing genuine food names from being used by pretenders, perhaps it's time to start asking consumers how they feel about consuming more processed goods and the effect that might have on the environment.

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