Iron Vegan looks to pump up the plant-based category

How the supplement maker is aiming to reach a broader audience of athletes looking for alternative protein sources.

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For many Canadians, protein bars represent an ideal on-the-go category, but in a crowded and increasingly mature market, brands have to work harder to differentiate themselves, typically by product innovation.

But plant-based supplement maker Iron Vegan is introducing a creative strategy to broaden its appeal within the active lifestyle sector, beginning with animated video campaign elements leveraged in-store as print materials, and a broad healthy living experiential program.

Iron Vegan was founded in 2015 and originally conceived as a sports nutrition brand. Some of its product lines betray its sports-centric origins, including packaging highlighting high protein count for its Athlete’s Blend and Athlete’s Gainer lines.

According to Matthew Taylor, marketing director for Iron Vegan, the new campaign is designed to strengthen the brand’s position to “fuel a broader audience of everyday athletes and adventurers” and to carve itself out in a space that includes competition like Vega and Sun Warrior, which typically emphasize “high performance.”

The campaign elements include a series of six- and 15-second short animated videos created by Door Knocker Media, showcasing the ingredients in Iron Vegan’s protein powders by having animated green sprouts crop up around the packaging, exploding into smaller ingredient components. Chime Digital has also revamped Iron Vegan’s website and is running an online campaign in addition to search engine marketing. In-store print pieces have also been created to match the look and feel of the new brand.

Taylor says the animated creative was aimed at active individuals who care about what they put into their bodies. More and more consumers are looking for great tasting plant proteins, made with real food ingredients, he says. According to the latest Nielsen data, meat and dairy alternatives (including high protein, non meat and dairy alternatives like quinoa) are a catalyst for grocery store sales in Canada, and the category grew by $31 million in 2018.  While only 20% of Canadian households consider themselves vegan or vegetarian, 27% still buy meat and dairy alternative products, and the figure is growing.

According to Taylor, the brand has had a strong relationship within traditional health food, which is where the brand started. Now it is placing products in food and drug stores, but only in locations where premium quality and priced products are sold.

iron-vegan-materialsTo get shelf space with retailers, he says the brand is right on trend, in fast growing sub-category: plant-based protein. “We got in early with something different – unique look and position, extremely clean formula and great taste. A combination no other brands were offering at the time,” Taylor claims.

He says the brand aims to lift the restrictions that people feel when pursuing a plant-based diet and want to make plant-based eating more accessible and desirable for everyone, not just vegans and vegetarians.

The brand’s line of products can be purchased in premium Canadian grocery, health food, supplement and select pharmacies including traditional health food stores all across Canada, Ecommerce like Well.ca, Vitamart, as well as banners like Loblaw, Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall and Sportchek. The brand is releasing a new Salted Caramel Sprouted Protein product flavour at the end of September.

On the experiential side, the brand has activated at the Outdoor Adventure Show, Ottawa National Capital Marathon, Honda Waterfront Marathon, and Multi Sport Canada Triathalon. It’s also hosted vegan cooking classes for media and social influencers.