With the nationwide decline in COVID-19 cases and increase in the number of people who are fully vaccinated, in-person branded experiences are making a comeback. Sampling is back, and so are in-person pop-up activations that bring people together to create a sense of fun. For instance, on Friday (June 18), plant-based food brand Lightlife is holding a pop-up tattoo shop in New York City to offer free hot dog tattoos to winners of the brand’s social media photo contest.
So, what is the connection between plant-based proteins and tattoos? It comes down to people taking care their bodies, as Adam Grogan, chief operating officer for Lightlife parent company Greenleaf Foods, itself a subsidiary of Ontario-based protein company Maple Leaf Foods, told PYMNTS in an interview.
“People love hot dogs so much that they’ve become one of the most popular designs people get tattooed. But, like many tattoos, they eventually need to be touched up,” Grogan told PYMNTS in an interview. “We partnered with celebrity tattoo artist Bang Bang to help people clean up their hot dog tattoos, just like Lightlife cleaned up its plant-based dogs.”
The tattoos will be done by Bang Bang, a celebrity tattoo artist in both senses of the phrase — the artist has 2.5 million Instagram followers, and he has worked with A-list celebrities including Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and Miley Cyrus — at Bang Bang’s shop in SoHo. The location itself is part of the brand tie-in.
As Grogan put it, “Hot dogs are a summertime staple — especially in New York City — and we know that people are ready to start engaging in-person again in a safe way.”
While some plant-based brands primarily focus on perfecting one meat substitute, Lightlife aims “to provide choices,” offering a wide range of options ranging from deli meat substitutes to burger and hot dog substitutes to tempeh, which has no animal product analog, among other products.
“Our goal is to help nourish a global population in a better, more sustainable and more affordable way, using diversified protein options,” said Grogan.
He noted that different protein options have different benefits for the brand. Tempeh, he said, is “poised to be the next kombucha” because of its fermentation-related nutritional benefits and its natural ingredients. Chicken substitutes, meanwhile, present “a massive opportunity for our category,” given that most other brands have not “been able to ‘crack the code.’” Plant-based burgers, meanwhile, have shown themselves to be “a huge driver of trial in the plant-based category,” becoming the go-to option for many flexitarians.
Notably, this trend does not start at the grocery store. Grogan explained, “Trial has largely been driven by quick service restaurants and then followed in retail sales for consumer.”
Those flexitarians ordering veggie burgers at the drive-thru are a key demographic for Lightlife. While other plant-based brands tout the benefits of the vegan lifestyle, Lightlife sees its products as part of a mixed diet, a trend especially popular among younger consumers — one Sprouts Farmers Market survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by One Poll found that a whopping 54 percent of respondents between the ages of 24 and 39 report that they are flexitarians.
“Consumers define healthy in a lot of different ways and we recognize that everyone balances different priorities when making their food choices,” said Grogan. “We are seeing more people interested in a balanced diet that includes both animal protein products and plant-based items — all in moderation.”
He noted that the brand’s new breaded plant-based chicken, for instance, is targeted at flexitarians. The top three motivating factors that, Lightlife’s research has shown, prompting these consumers to seek out more plant-based options are health, variety and sustainability.
To the latter point, Grogan said, “People have an insatiable appetite for protein, and when you consider that there will be 10 billion people on the earth by 2050, it is essential that we have animal protein and plant protein to feed the growing population.”
Seedlings And Petri Dishes
While the audience for plant-based foods can sometimes be painted with a broad brush, looking ahead to the next few years, Grogan said that he “expect[s] some segmentation.” Additionally, he predicts that lab-grown meat will “make its way into progressive stores.”
Sure enough, one such cultured meat company, Good Meat, announced a $170 million fundraise in May, and a lab-grown fat company, Mission Barns, announced a $24 million Series A fundraise in April. These numbers are rising — a Good Food Institute study found that cultured meat companies’ total investor interest in 2020 was six times what it was the year before. As far as plant-based proteins, demand is also only continuing to grow. The global market for plant-based meats is projected to reach over $20 billion by 2025, growing 12 percent each year.
“In five years, I believe plant-based options will be found throughout retailers and not be viewed as niche,” predicted Grogan. “Every single category will be represented.”