Conversations about less and better meat and dairy can be a challenge. The conversation on ‘less’ can feel negative as no one likes taking away something people like, and it remains challenging language for restaurants, retailers and others.
Eating Better and our partners are keen that the language we use appeals and resonates, so we brought together Eating Better alliance members to hear from experts about research and projects that have looked at how we talk about meat and dairy reduction.
Our three language takeaways are:
- Talk about and deliver gorgeous delicious food in place of labels.
- Don’t sound like you are taking things away from people.
- Look for the co-benefits in your message (e.g. health, waste).
Jonathan Wise from the Better Buying Lab (BBL), an initiative of the World Resources Institute shared with us how language can advance sustainable diets. Jonathan shared learning from on-line research and field studies BBL have conducted with organisations such as the Behavioural Insights Team, Yale, Sainsbury’s and Panera Bread in the US.
One of the many examples Jonathan shared, showing the impact of language was changing the name from ‘Meat- free sausages and mash’ to ‘Field-grown sausages and mash’ resulted in a 51% increase in sales.
Jonathan’s top tips for how to name plant-based dishes to increase their appeal amongst mainstream audiences:
- Remove suppressing language such as ‘vegan’, ‘meat-free’, ‘vegetarian’, and health related language such as: low fat, low calories.
- Use enhancing language which highlights provenance, flavour and the pleasure of eating experience.
- Words such as ‘vegetarian’ and ‘vegan’ in dish names can be off-putting to mainstream audiences as they conjure up ideas of people ‘not like me’. It’s better to use language to describe how delicious the dish tastes.
Tessa Tricks from Hubbub shared what has worked as part of ‘Meat Your Match,’ in engaging men at gyms to reduce their meat consumption. Hubbub started an experiment, which challenged 18 male gym goers to halve their meat-based protein intake over 2 months.
Hubbub provided them with meal plans, watches with health trackers and advice and support.
Overall 80% managed to cut meat by half and 86% were very likely or likely to continue after the end of the project. Improved wellbeing was reported and 85% would recommend the experience. The likelihood of participants ordering a vegetarian and vegan meal increased from 5% to 41%
Tessa’s top tips for how language can encourage more plant-based eating:
- Make it achievable and tangible.
- Don’t call it a diet.
- Don’t eliminate meat completely (focus on what’s gained not what’s given up).
- Use the right message and motivation for the right audience. Health and fitness worked for this group, but dietary choices are so personal, it won’t work for all.
Chris Shaw of Climate Outreach shared learning from research (focus groups) with members of the UK public who hold centre-right political views, specifically linked to how the concept of ‘net-zero’ resonates with them.
Chris and Peter’s top tips for how language can encourage this audience to support the ‘net zero’ concept:
- Highlight shared agreement on the need to act: although climate change is not everybody’s highest priority, climate scepticism is becoming increasingly socially unacceptable.
- Build trust by using familiar faces as trusted messengers (there’s currently a really low level of trust towards experts).
- Focus messaging on a small number of tangible actions.
- Choose the co-benefits of zero carbon carefully: reducing waste and protecting the countryside particularly resonate with a centre-right audience.
- Study how these issues are reported in the media and try to improve that (now it’s confusing and polarised).
What are your thoughts on the role of language when talking about #LessandBetter meat and dairy and climate change? Tweet us @Eating_Better.
To find out more about our previous work in this area (including ten drivers that could provide opportunities for encouraging dietary shifts), why not read ‘Let's talk about meat.’