Birds Eye has been on a mission to “democratise” meat-free food and make it accessible to the masses.
Perhaps better known for its fish fingers and potato waffles, the business launched Green Cuisine in 2019 to take advantage of the growing appetite for vegetarian alternatives.
In just two years Birds Eye has expanded the range from three to 15 products, including burgers, mince, nuggets and sausage rolls and Green Cuisine is now worth £17.5m in the UK, according to Nielsen.
Birds Eye UK and Ireland marketing director, Sarah Koppens, says the brand has seen incredible growth thanks to the addition of innovative new products and “switching focus” from “product and brand-specific” marketing to a more “reassuring message”, which suited the mood of the nation under lockdown.
Green Cuisine’s UK household penetration is currently 9.1%, according to Kantar, up from 7.1% at the same time last year. This has been driven by the launch of new products, such as Green Cuisine chicken-free pieces last year, which now contributes to 38% of sales, according to Nielsen.
Koppens says responding to the rise in demand for vegetarian alternatives and expanding the range in line with consumer suggestions has been key.
“Over the past four to five years people have started to understand the concept of eating for the planet, [the health benefits of] a vegetarian diet and knowing the carbon footprint of food. This has all become increasingly mainstream,” she tells Marketing Week.
“With Birdseye coming in and democratising [meat-free food], we provided a very trusted and accessible brand that everybody knew, and we provided a very easy path for consumers to test the waters with this kind of eating.”
She believes the pandemic also “shone a really strong light” on healthy heating and the idea of taking care of yourself.
Koppens compares the surge in home consumption under lockdown to a “sampling experience” for Green Cuisine on a national scale.
“Now we have to make sure we continue to surprise and delight consumers. We want to do that through innovation, we want to do that through a really strong through-the-line campaign story on whatever it is we’re advertising, so what goes on TV, what goes on in-store and through the ecommerce channel,” she says.
“It will be how we build loyalty because we’re all consumers of habit. If we can get people to repeat that habit, it suddenly becomes something they do on default, rather than allowing that habit to break.”
Lighting the torch
As part of this drive, Birds Eye is partnering with Team GB for a “big summer push” for Green Cuisine ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Koppens says the tie-up with Team GB “wasn’t on the calendar” and was done “very quickly” when the brand saw an opportunity to build brand equity and reinforce its health credentials.
“This is one of the first steps back into more traditional dialogue with consumers around our brands and our products,” says Koppens.
The £2.7m campaign, which launches today, kicks off with a TV ad featuring three Team GB athletes. These are five-time Olympic medallist in artistic gymnastics, Max Whitlock, heavyweight boxer Cheavon Clarke, who is a two-time European Championship medallist, and 400m sprinter Laviai Nielsen, who became double British champion at the 2020 British Athletics Championships.
The campaign features a Japanese manga-style across all touchpoints, which Koppens believes will help Birds Eye “breakthrough and be memorable”. It will feature a wide selection of Green Cuisine products, with the TV advert focusing on the brand’s meat-free burgers.
Birds Eye will be measuring the success of the campaign on sales and brand equity.
It is a change in direction for Green Cuisine, which has featured vampires and the strapline ‘Whoops, I’m a bit veggie!’.
“With there being such a period of lack of activity sporting-wise we saw the Olympics, a bit like the Euros, as being a big peak, where nations all come together to celebrate the achievements of ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” says Koppens.
“We saw it as a huge opportunity to be a part of it and to share and to celebrate and through our sponsorship to support those individuals,” says Koppens.
The meatfree sector is highly competitive and includes prominent brands such as Quorn, Linda McCartney and rising names such as Beyond Meat, The Meatless Farm Company and Strong Roots all vying for a bigger slice of market share.
Koppens say it’s seeing success even in a competitive market because of the “trust” and “heritage” the Birds Eye brand carries with British consumers.
“It’s such a trusted brand. We’ve been around for such a long time and we’re really accessible,” says Koppens.