It’s all about plant-based food at the moment, with reported record number of people having signed up to the Veganuary movement last month. This is reflected by new food launches in the UK, as one in five products have been labelled vegan in 2019 according to Mintel figures

In line with the trend, OXO, the well-known cupboard staple, has designed a new addition to its line-up – a beef flavoured meat-free update of the classic beef cube. Cited by the Guardian, Alex Whitehouse, CEO of Premier Foods (the manufacturer of OXO) has stated that

The whole plant-based eating thing is clearly very important. There was a clear role for a vegan but beef-flavoured cube.

The plant-based food trend is driven by meat reducers who, according to Vypr’s Diet demographic are around 23% of consumers. Those following a strict vegan diet are around 2% of consumers. Considering these circumstances, we were interested in testing how the product would influence the marketplace, in particular whether it has the power to affect sales of older OXO varieties.

We ran two preference steers, the first showing our panel four older stock cube products, comparable with the new addition either in terms of flavour or the meat-free positioning. In the second we included the meat-free option with the intention to finally compare the two result sets. We used a nationally representative sample, which represents working-age adults in the UK, according to gender and age statistics from the last census.

A preference steer shows the products in groups of three until all combinations are exhausted and produces visualisations for exclusive and all preference results. Exclusive preferences are consistent choices of the same product every time it has been shown, while all preferences take into account choices made by consumers who didn’t express a clear exclusive preference for any given option. We looked into exclusive preferences, trying to predict the influence of the new product over consistent choices, in order to understand whether it would influence switching to other options. Below is a comparison of the two results:

Exclusive preferences towards the new option are low, at slightly above 6%. However, its inclusion brings about a decline in preference levels towards Oxo Rich Beef Stock Cubes (-9 percentage points) and Oxo Beef Reduced Salt Stock Cubes (-6 percentage points). There is also an insignificant increase in preferences towards Oxo Vegetable Stock Cubes (+3.6 percentage points).

These results might seem unusual at first, as a meat-free option is not directly related to low salt requirements. However, consumers looking to choose what they consider healthy could switch from the latter to the former. The case with the rich beef stock cubes is somewhat similar. While slightly more than a fifth of consumers are loyal to the original stock cubes, the first and best known Oxo product, many appear to be choosing its novel alternative. Oxo Rich Beef Stock Cubes is a premium option, introduced in 2018 to target indulgence seekers willing to trade up. Subsequently, with the launch of the meat-free variety, a newer beef-flavoured option has become available and some consumers have switched to it.

Looking into preferences by age group helped us understand even better consumers’ motivation to opt for particular products, depending on the choice they were presented with:

 Preferences towards the most indulgent option came from novelty-seeking Millennials (25-34) on the left-hand side. This option fared less well with the same age group when an even newer product was introduced. The meat-free option performed best with Millennials but remained below 10%. However, its inclusion triggered a notable increase in interest towards the vegetable stock cubes within the two youngest consumer groups. Seeing the new product seems to have triggered even stronger preference for the classic vegetable stock (on the right-hand side).

We found out that the new product had a limited appeal but its inclusion triggered some changes in consumer preferences towards other options. However, its popularity is likely to grow in time with vegan food increasingly favoured. Understanding who the early adopters are could help the brand find focus in its marketing efforts. We ran a split-by-image steer to meat reducers, vegetarians and vegans only, in an attempt to find out whether the new option is seen as more attractive than the older vegetable stock, which is meat-free but doesn’t have a beef flavour:

The classic vegetable stock was more successful overall but the new addition managed to prove that it has its place in the booming meat-free market. It performed extremely well with vegan consumers, 93% of whom were likely to buy it, and got an encouraging vote from vegetarians – 86%. Meat reducers, however, didn’t get to the 80% vote threshold, which highlights that the success of this product is unlikely to draw on this group’s purchase decisions, at least initially.

Vegan alternatives to meat products, with flavours imitating meat, are likely to perform best with vegan and vegetarian consumers. A likely reason is that meat reducers supplement their diet with meat and fish, which provide them with the opportunity to experience the taste of meat. However, such new product launches have the power to change preferences towards available product options, especially when it comes to people aged under 35.

Using Vypr, brands can gain deeper insight into the preferences of specific consumer subsets. Steers can be asked to pre-determined consumer segments, and the results additionally filtered by a large range of demographic criteria.

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