Brandreview provides strategic insight into the positions brands occupy in the minds of consumers. In this brand review, we take a closer look at the meat substitute industry, where the mental market position was mapped for 10 of the most frequently mentioned meat substitute brands.

The purpose of the study is to identify consumer needs and perspectives. What do consumers base their choices on when buying meat substitutes? Validators came up with 13 key needs and/or situations (Category Entry Points) for choosing a meat substitute. Brandreview is part of the Consumer Behavior Monitor, initiative of Validators and VU Amsterdam to measure the effect of a crisis on consumer behavior since 2020. In this article you can read the main outcomes.


The brands from the survey:

New insights needed to grow meat substitutes market again
Compared to other industries, the relevance for the meat substitutes category is not very high (yet). Also because of the recent decline in volume and revenue of the meat substitutes market after years of growth, the category cries out for new insights.

The range of meat substitutes continues to grow, but this is not now driving sales growth. The same goes for the use of promotions. Until 2020, this caused growth, but this is no longer. The increase in recent years was partly explained by corona, because consumers were more concerned with health, ate less meat and sought healthier alternatives, i.e. meat substitutes. In addition, physical availability also played a role. Because the catering industry remained closed due to corona measures and people did more supermarket shopping, sales of meat substitutes increased.

Women more interested in meat substitutes than men
The Brand Review shows that the relevance for meat substitutes is a lot lower compared to other industries, but also that there are also big differences between men and women in consumer needs in this. The chart below shows the two most relevant and two least relevant needs/situations.



Figure 1: Volume growth of meat substitutes flattens out

Figure 2: Top 2 CEPs with highest and lowest relevance

Figure 3: Change in eating habits during corona across generations



'For dinner' is the most important situation for buying meat substitutes, half of those surveyed consider this the most relevant CEP. In addition, 49% say they sometimes buy meat substitutes just to try it out. Interestingly, women find this more relevant than men (59% versus 39%). Not only on this CEP do we see a big difference between men and women, across all CEPs there is a higher relevance for this category for women than for men. These insights indicate that there is still a lot of growth potential and hooks for marketers to capitalize on.

As indicated earlier, the use of promotions no longer boosts the market. This is also reflected in the results of the CEPs "offer" and "cheaper than meat" (24%), meat substitutes are bought the least for the latter CEP. Besides the fact that offers are frequent, many meat substitutes tend to be more expensive than their animal counterparts. But price thus plays the least relevant role in the purchasing process. Buying meat substitutes for a partner also emerges as the least relevant reason (28%). This is a striking percentage, since 47% of the target group does buy it for themselves.

Meat substitutes live more among the young age group (18-34 years)
In addition, we also see a difference between the age groups. Among young people aged 18-34, two-thirds (67%) say they buy meat substitutes to try them out. This percentage is much lower among 35-54 year olds (50%) and 55+ year olds (33%). On all CEPs, relevance is higher for the younger age group, compared to the two older age groups. The same findings also appear in a similar study by McKinsey in other EU countries.


Market shares in meat substitutes industry
Figure 4 shows that De Vegetarische Slager claims leadership, but is closely followed by competitor Valess. The Vegetarian Butcher is both the most purchased and the most thought of among those surveyed. For both De Vegetarische Slager and Valess, they are bought more than thought of, The mental market share is lower than the real market share. This often creates a vulnerable position. As soon as one brand is more top-of-mind with consumers, the other brand will start losing share. Albert Heijn's own brand is nicely balanced - its mental market share is almost the same as its real market share - and thus manages to keep consumers loyal. If we look at the Naturli and Boon brands, we see that they are thought of just a bit more, although generally low, than bought. This may have to do with physical barriers, such as in-store availability.

Figure 4: Mental versus real market share of meat substitutes

Figure 5: CEP 'Cheaper than meats' Private label AH

The power of the slogan and DBAs
If we look at the market shares of the meat replacement brands, we see the power of the slogan and Distinctive Brand Assets (DBAs) reflected in the mental market shares. The Valess brand, with its slogan 'Incredibly tasty and vegetarian', performs above average on the CEP 'tasty'. The Beyond Meat brand, identified by its green logo with a white bull wearing a cape, scores above average on the CEPs 'environment' and 'animal welfare'.

House brand AH large mental market share on CEP 'cheaper than meat'
Figure 5 clearly shows that for Albert Heijn house brand meat substitutes, the CEP 'cheaper than meat' is strongly established in consumers' brains.




The various CEPs measure the number of brands being considered. If many brands are considered in a category, competition is greater. The number of competitors within the meat substitutes industry ranges from 3.2 to 4.5. In terms of ROI, it can make quite a difference in which need you want to grow. For example, the least competition is on "monthly" and the most competition is on "animal welfare. As a new meat substitutes brand, it is wise to pay attention to the relevant CEPs where there are still relatively few competitors.

Set up Brand Review
In 2018, VU Amsterdam and Validators launched the Institute for Brand Analytics. The goal of this collaboration is to make brands steerable and market shares measurable in the minds of consumers. After four years of research on over 300 brands, we arrived at a method that could measure the strength of brands and make predictions about market share. Starting in August, a specific industry will run each month as part of the Consumer Behavior Monitor. First, an online qualitative preliminary survey tests consumer needs (CEPs) and then a Brand Review measurement.


The results of this Brand Review are also discussed in the Podcast Noteworthy S02E01 Meat substitutes: from plant to fire. This article can also be read on MarketingTribune.

Do you have questions about this study? If so, please contact Sebastian Houterman.