Beyond Meat Spotlights Farms & Growers With New Ad Campaign Tackling Meat Misinformation
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Beyond Meat’s first new ad campaign after a difficult year sees the plant-based meat brand go back to its roots – literally. Titled There’s Goodness Here, Beyond tackles misinformation about plant-based meat in a subtle response to the meat industry’s targeted ads over the years. Crucially, the campaign puts an oft-overlooked member of the agri-food system at the centre of the action: the farmer.
The new ad highlights Steven, a fifth-generation fava bean farmer from North Dakota. (Fava beans are one of Beyond Meat’s key ingredients.) It is set in a rural field, where Steven takes the viewer through his rows of crops, while a voiceover explains how Beyond turns plants into meat and extols the environmental and health virtues of its products.
“From these crops,” the narrator says, “we get protein and run it through a simple and clean process of heating, cooling, and pressure to form plant-based meats that are better for you.”
The meat industry’s campaign against the plant-based industry
The ad marks Beyond’s first response to years of coordinated ads by meat industry interest groups, run by the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) since 2019. The smear campaign involved print ads, newspaper op-eds, video features and target websites like Clean Food Facts. The CCF took a shot at the processed nature of plant-based meats, and their long, complex ingredient lists.
One ad pit vegan meat against dog food, with a side-by-side comparison of the ingredient lists asking consumers to guess which is which. Meanwhile, a video campaign used a clip from Beyond CEO Ethan Brown’s interview with CBS, where he talked about reproducing amino acids and fats from plant-based sources to replicate meat. CCF proceeded to list a partial ingredient list from Beyond to show it takes more than just those two elements to “make fake meat”, adding that “not all ingredients these are good for you”, without explaining why.
But perhaps the CCF’s biggest attack on plant-based meat came during the 2020 Super Bowl – an ad that featured Spelling Bee participants struggling with words like methylcellulose and propylene glycol (which it claimed were “chemicals” used for “synthetic meats”). “If you can’t spell it or pronounce it,” concluded the ad, “maybe you shouldn’t be eating it.”
Where Beyond focuses on farm and ingredients, Impossible fights back against CCF and meat industry tactics
Where Beyond takes a more muted approach, the response from its closest competitor Impossible Foods is more direct, explicitly calling out the meat industry.
For example, the company parodied the CCF’s spelling bee ad, where a child is confused after being asked to spell “poop”. The judge goes on to explain how there’s “lots of poop in the places where pigs and chickens are chopped to pieces to make meat”, and a voiceover highlights research that found 300 samples of ground beef to contain “fecal bacteria”. In response to the CCF’s last line, Impossible’s ad says: “Just because a kid can spell ‘poop’, doesn’t mean you or your kids should be eating it.”
Impossible’s newest Making Meat History campaign is a more direct retaliation than Beyond’s latest commercial. The former’s The Summer of Impossible ad – released in June – takes the form of a musical, discussing the differences and similarities between plant- and animal-based meat.
Beyond’s ad puts the focus on its ingredient label. Its Beyond Steak, which debuted last year and which the company described as having a ‘cleaner’ and simpler ingredient list – wheat gluten, fava beans, pomegranate concentrate, spices and flavourings, sunflower lecithin, and fruit and vegetable juice colour, became the first meat product – vegan or conventional – to be certified by the American Heart Association this past May.
Beyond uses this win to address the “unclean” and “unhealthy” rhetoric the CCF ads pursue, labelling its new product as “heart-healthy steak from the Heartland” in the ad campaign.
After a turbulent year, Beyond readies for an uptick
It’s no secret that the last year or so has been tough going for Beyond Meat. Retail sales for plant-based meat have seen a continuous decline, and Beyond has been hit hard. It failed to meet targets in 2022, with revenue dropping for five consecutive quarters ending April 1 this year. In May, its stock tumbled to a new low of $10.02 – far from its highs of over $239 following its July 2019 IPO.
The meat giant was forced to lay off 19% of its staff – around 200 employees – last year, and is now facing a class-action lawsuit over claims it misled its investors about its production and growth plans. It has also entered an equity distribution agreement with Goldman Sachs to sell shares worth up to $200M.
But Beyond entered this year on an optimistic financial note, with its Q1 2023 earnings (while down year-on-year) exceeding Wall Street projections. The company also expects sharper revenue growth in the second half of the year.
With its new ad campaign, Beyond goes back to its roots, spotlighting the very people who form the bedrock of any food business: farmers. The tagline for its new There’s Goodness Here campaign is ‘Back to the Farm’, putting the producer at the heart of its messaging. Highlighting the story of Steven, a farmer who decided to grow fava beans for products like Beyond Meat, is a laudable step towards Beyond’s commitment to transparency and giving back.
“Our story begins with sun, soil, water, and a seed,” the voiceover says at the beginning of the ad. “It begins in fields.” It continues by explaining the soil-positive effects of these crops, but stresses the fact that farmers also benefit: “It helps farmers keep their fields and soil healthy, naturally.”
Keying in on the importance of farmers is crucial, especially since a common criticism of the plant-based meat industry is that it puts meat farmers out of business. In a world that is becoming more ethical and hoping to be more sustainable every day, positioning its products as planet-, health- and people-friendly could be just what Beyond needs.