If you’ve got a Netflix subscription, you’ve probably seen Seaspiracy pop up in your recommendations. The documentary, which critiques commercial fishing practices, has been streamed millions of times already – and while there’s controversy surrounding some of its claims, the film is undoubtedly fuelling interest in plant-based diets. 

Veganism is one of the most important food trends in recent years. Almost twice the number of people gave up meat in 2020 as 2019, and now the light is being shone on plant-based alternatives to fish. 

Google searches for the term ‘vegan seafood’ have increased by 45% in the UK since Seaspiracy was released (100% in the USA), and brands operating in this sector are hot property; plant-based seafood company Good Catch – owned by Gathered Foods – secured  $26.35 million in funding this April. 

But for food brands eyeing the plant-based space, riding the consumer wave is not enough to thrive. You need to think carefully about how your product is packaged, labelled and marketed online, to maximise your share of this fast-growing market. 

Creating consumer trust through product packaging 

Whether you’re a purely plant-based brand, or a general food manufacturer branching out into vegan alternatives, it’s important to remember that ethics drive many people’s dietary choices. They’re looking for products they can trust – right down to the label. 

One of the biggest talking points in Seaspiracy was dolphin-safe tuna, and many consumers look for the safe logo on labelling when purchasing canned fish. While the International Marine Mammal Project has debunked claims around tuna fishing practices covered in the film, its discussion underlines the need for clear, reliable, authentic product packaging. 

Many of the consumers experimenting with plant-based fish alternatives may be new to veganism, and curious to understand the ingredients and nutritional breakdown of the products on offer. Equally, veteran vegans will want to know what makes up their food of choice – particularly if it’s been made by someone new to the market, or a brand that isn’t known for manufacturing meat-free or fish-free foods. 

It’s also important to think about naming convention as part of product labelling. While terms like ‘fishless tuna’ and ‘crustacean-free crab’ might help consumers to understand what vegan fish and seafood tastes like, traditional food brands are not always comfortable with plant-based producers using this lingo. Already we’ve seen meat-free brands coming under fire – in the state of Missouri, there is a major dispute on whether vegetarian or vegan companies can use traditionally animal-based product names like sausages and burgers – while The European Parliament is considering whether to ban plant-based dairy terms like almond milk and vegan cheese. 

Legal discussions aside, the complexities associated with packaging and marketing plant-based products show how carefully food brands need to tread in this sector. The clearer and more visually effective your product labelling, the easier it is for shoppers to buy into plant-based brand values and know exactly what they’re getting. Supporting consumers’ educational journeys will help them to trust your fish and seafood alternatives, building long-term loyalty. 

Extending the educational journey across online product listings

When it comes to creating consumer trust, food companies need to remember that product packaging is the tip of the iceberg. The most successful brand expansions are driven by a cohesive, coherent strategy across on-pack visuals and online marketing. Particularly if you’re going direct to consumer, rather than through supermarket chains. 

Digital platforms are the ideal place to enhance product information, helping potential customers to understand the benefits of purchasing plant-based fish and seafood. 

Online content is a good place to capture the interest of ‘flexitarians’ – people who still want to eat meat and fish in moderation, but are looking to add more vegetarian or vegan meals into their diet. Highlighting nutritional values such as high protein content, or ethical gains such as local ingredient sourcing, can drive interest among this consumer group. 

It’s also important to think about how consumers will find your plant-based brand online. We mentioned earlier the rise in google searches for vegan seafood; SEO-optimising product listings across your brand website and marketplaces like Amazon will drive traffic and support sales conversions. 

Capturing custom from curious and committed consumers

Whether or not you’ve seen Seaspiracy, or you agree with the narratives it presents, we can’t ignore the rapid rise of the plant-based food industry. And a globally distributed film watched by millions is bound to boost interest in vegetarian or vegan fish and seafood. 

For brands exploring the plant-based sector, the way that you present online and on-pack product information will have a massive impact on consumer uptake. The meat-free and fish-free movement is still in its infancy, and both curious and committed vegans – along with those looking to consume fewer animal products – want help understanding what goes into their food. 

Food brands that can show consumers the ethical, environmental and nutritional power of their products will be expertly placed to maximise share of a market that will be worth $85 billion by 2030. 

For more Food industry trends and insights, follow Hooley Brown on LinkedIn or visit our plant-based food page. 

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