Subway and Martha Stewart give a lesson in plant-based food

Why the QSR is "going big" to promote the national launch of its Beyond Meat meatball sandwich.

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Subway has added a Beyond Meat meatball sandwich to its menu in Canada, and it has brought on home and garden expert Martha Stewart to get the word out in a national campaign.

The lead spot in a campaign to promote the new sandwich enlists Stewart to show where “plant-based meatballs” come from, hosting a tongue-in-cheek segment where she grows and tends to her meatball tree. Additional digital creative continues the theme without Stewart, showing meatballs growing and blooming.

“It was a different angle on plant-based options,” says Cristina Wells, senior marketing director at Subway Canada. “Others have already come out with plant-based products, and I think playing on the fact that it is an alternate to our classic meatballs, as well as the plant-based idea, creates some separation with what’s out there. We also knew we needed to partner with someone with credibility in culinary and gardening, and who has their own sense of humour, which is why Martha Stewart is a great fit.”

Subway first announced it would add a Beyond Meat meatball sandwich to its menu last year, with a test in Canada and the U.S. beginning in the fall. While Subway is still testing the product in the U.S., the sandwich was made available nationwide in Canada this week.

Wells says the response to the test convinced Subway to go even bigger than its typical campaigns around new product offerings and limited time offers. Research that Subway conducted showed 70% of consumers are looking for alternatives to meat at least once a week, and scores for the Beyond Meat meatball were higher than the QSR was expecting during the market test, according to Wells.

“Not being first to market with [plant-based meat alternatives], we thought we wanted to go big with this one,” she says. “During the test, a lot of of guests came in expecting a great experience of us because we’re known for veggies and those kinds of options. We knew it was something that is going to perform really well for Subway and something our guests were looking to us for.”

The test period also motivated Subway to go beyond only using Beyond Meatball as a replacement for meat in its existing meatball marinara sub by giving customers the option to also use it in customized subs or wraps. The QSR has long offered vegetarian-friendly options like veggie subs or falafel, but the Beyond Meatball goes beyond simply offering vegetarians and vegans additional choices.

“Protein is such a big area for our guests,” Wells says. “Veggies are great, especially for vegetarians, but the interesting thing with plant-based food is that it appeals more to that flexitarian who is looking for a meat alternative that doesn’t want to sacrifice on taste or protein. That’s why we worked with Beyond Meat specifically, they are known for those things in that realm and have that credibility already.”

The Martha Stewart spot was created by Meat & Produce, the influencer and production division of Veritas, which is also handling PR and social for the campaign. DentsuBos handled additional TV and digital creative for the campaign, with Carat handling media. The campaign debuted during Sunday’s broadcast of the Golden Globes and runs until the beginning of February.