Marketing Veganism to Men: A Challenge Beyond Perceptions

Presenting vegan food with a masculine spin could help change perceptions and make men more open to trying plant-based meals.

The Plant-Based Predicament

The health and environmental benefits of consuming plant-based meals are undeniable.

However, cultural inclinations pose significant challenges to reducing meat intake, especially among men.

Historically, meat-eating has been intertwined with masculinity, while gender norms often peg plant-based diets as predominantly feminine.

This leads to an essential question: Can marketing strategies shift perceptions and encourage more men to opt for vegan dishes?

Alma Scholz, the lead researcher behind a new study in Frontiers in Communication, observed that when vegan food is presented with a masculine spin, men may encounter lesser resistance and could be more open to trying it.

Unraveling the Stereotypes

Survey data suggests that dishes with smaller portions and abundant vegetables are typically perceived as more fitting for women.

In contrast, meat-rich, hearty meals are synonymous with men.

The cultural nexus between meat consumption, strength, and masculinity often positions meat-free alternatives as less appropriate for men.

Moreover, women usually demonstrate greater empathy towards animal welfare, a predominant motivator for choosing veganism.

Recent trends show a shift in these perceptions.

Vegetarianism, for instance, is no longer viewed as unsuitable for men, but veganism still carries this stigma.

Men generally prioritize consumer choices that echo their gender identity more than women do, making them more significant meat consumers.

Scholz, who conducted this study at the University of Würzburg and now affiliates with Stockholm University, indicated that because food choices are also wrapped up in gender stereotypes, men often consume in ways that align with societal expectations to avoid appearing less masculine.

Reimagining Vegan Marketing

In collaboration with Dr. Jan Lenhart from the University of Bamberg, Scholz embarked on an experiment to determine if altering the marketing of vegan foods could sway men’s opinions.

They enlisted online participants and presented them with various dish descriptions.

Some of these descriptions employed conventional terms, while others incorporated ‘masculine’ food-associated words.

Participants then evaluated the dishes based on their suitability for both genders.

The research also delved into how male participants related to various masculinity forms and gauged everyone’s stance on veganism.

Participants disclosed their meat consumption habits and their dietary choice motivations.

Emerging Insights

The findings revealed that women were generally more inclined towards veganism and rated it more favorably than men.

Ethical and health considerations were the primary reasons propelling individuals towards veganism.

Interestingly, the more justifications participants provided for curtailing their meat intake, the more likely they were to act on it.

Those acquainted with vegans showcased a more favorable view of meat-free dishes.

However, while the revamped dish descriptions didn’t necessarily alter men’s preference for vegan dishes, they did influence the dish’s perception, making them appear less feminine and more neutral.

Men who didn’t strongly associate with traditional masculinity notions were more receptive to the masculine-marketing approach.

Yet, Scholz and Lenhart caution that their sample might not be entirely representative, suggesting that broader samples could yield different outcomes.

The researchers believe that short-lived interventions may not suffice to bring about substantial change in dietary choices.

Even though a brief campaign managed to shift vegan food’s gender suitability from a feminine to a more neutral domain, enduring efforts could potentially foster a more profound shift, enhancing men’s appreciation for vegan dishes.

The exploration of such long-term strategies is crucial.

  • JOURNAL: Frontiers in Communication
  • DOI: 10.3389/fcomm.2023.1244471 
  • ARTICLE TITLE: Masculinity and Veganism: The effect of linking vegan dishes with masculinity on men’s attitudes towards vegan food