Plant-based foods are now tasty to all – even avid meat-eaters. Crowd DNA’s Céline Longden-Naufal decodes how this happens by countering veganism’s sombre reputation with playful pleasure

An avid meat eater chooses a beefless burger. A shopper picks Beyond Meat sausages with no thought to animal welfare. Or a vegan dish is ordered by someone who has no rules about what they can or can’t eat. For those who enjoy plant based not as a strict choice, or a way of life, how do these products appeal to this less rigid person?

As part of our regular cultural decode series, we analyse how La Vie (a plant-based bacon and lardon alternative product) does this by fostering a more playful and approachable attitude to plant-based diets. We look at how it engages with the flexible consumer, to “unite everyone at the same table, no matter their dietary preferences,” as La Vie co-founder Nicholas Schweitzer puts it. And how this hybrid market is being created without severing the important ties to the environmental considerations and ethics that are the historic (and still beating) heart of the veganism movement.

1. Plant-based as playful pleasure

La Vie’s use of bright, clashing block colours to amplify the hand-drawn illustrations of anthropomorphised characters recall children’s cartoons, coding the plant-based world as bringing a child-like wonder to what has traditionally been seen as a sombre subject. This marries well with a cheeky and down-to-earth tone of voice (eg “Made from plants, not from ass!”) that suggests engagement with a grown-up audience, communicating an adult playfulness. It sparks our childhood imaginative freedom and puts it through the lens of age appropriate wit. Meanwhile, the dynamism and eccentricity of those cartoons elevates the plant-based ethos in more energetic and stimulating ways – all in all, La Vie is positioned as an uplifting and pleasurable indulgence for all ages.

2. Plant-based as light-heartedly rebellious 

While the switch to plant-based diets are usually stemmed from deep-rooted ethical, health and environmental issues, these are often fuelled by aggression and bleakness. La Vie’s use of relevant puns (eg “Bacon that doesn’t make the planet sizzle”) brings light and humour to important issues around sustainability and health.  Playing with brand’s cultural stereotype to push plant-based products – like “Ze award-winning French plant-based bacon now available in Sonzburries” – also codes this space as pushing boundaries without taking itself too seriously. We often see in millennial humour used to convey realism with topics that are considered serious. Imagery of counterculture symbols (eg planet earth giving the peace sign) connotes a 1970s hippie aesthetic, coding plant-based as being an optimistic steward of the environment and ethics, rather than the bringer of doom and gloom.

3. Plant-based as approachable and flexible 

Traditionally, vegans have been the primary focus for plant-based products where the vegan credentials of a product took priority over being a tasty. The visuals of dishes that incorporate non-vegan components (eg eggs) code plant-based lifestyles as expansive and adaptable. Imagery of full, brightly colourful dishes and glistening ingredients resemble the images we see on diner menus that are known for rich foods, and suggests that plant-based lifestyles can also be tantalising and indulgent. Meanwhile, with breakfast being an integral part of family life, utilising this uniting symbol of a comforting routine evokes approachability. And the use of familiar pop culture references (eg “On Mondays we wear pink” – from Mean Girls) and inclusive language (eg “For meat lovers and vegans”) makes this space accessible for everyone. 

Plant-based brands are continuously striving for new and creative ways to entice consumers to veganism without losing their traditional customers. Introducing a whimsical playfulness and light-hearted activism rather than the historical scare-mongering tactics allows others to ease into plant-based options without eating it with a side order of guilt.

La Vie champions these shifts without compromising on indulgence and taste to transport consumers to a novel yet familiar plant-based world. It allows them to rethink their engagement with health and planet without leaving a bad taste in their mouth. 

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