Silk makes it simple to go vegan, sometimes

The category leader is embracing a word most brands avoid to show that cutting out meat and dairy is easier than people tend to think.
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Danone’s Silk is inviting people to try “intermittent veganing,” tapping prominent chefs and home cooks to show that getting the benefits of eating more vegan-friendly meals can be simpler than most people think.

The integrated campaign, launching now, has national creative going after an audience who “sometimes, but not all the time, thinks about eating vegetables,” highlighting plant-based oat, almond/cashew beverages and yogurts.

“Intermittent Veganing” also includes partnerships with top Canadian chefs like Chuck Hughes, Matty Matheson, Connie de Sousa, John Jackson and Adrian Forte. Each of the chefs – whose menus are heavy on meat – have been paired with a brand ambassador in a series of long-form social videos where they will “veganize” one of their popular dishes using Silk and other Danone products to show that it is fairly simple to still enjoy a plant-based version of the meals they love.

The content series is kicking off a contest that aims to drive further engagement, urging consumers to submit their own recipe they’d like to “veganize” for a chance to win $3,000 worth of prizes.

Silk also developed a Google Chrome browser extension that substitutes non-dairy alternative ingredients when browsing for recipes online. Shopper marketing tie-ins will continue until the end of the year across all major grocery banners.

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“Intermittent vegans” are, according to Silk, a dietary group that wants to make changes to their eating habits to live a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

“With changing consumer preferences, this light-hearted term is about empowering those who might not want to take the full vegan plunge, but who acknowledge the benefits of a more plant-forward diet,” says Genevieve Bolduc, marketing director for the plant-based portfolio at Danone Canada.

These consumers are very similar to ones other brands have widely referred to as “flexitarians,” which planet-based food and beverage purveyors have used to avoid using the term “vegan,” for a variety of reasons. Some consumers associate it with a more “granola” lifestyle, niche products that aren’t for them or ones that sacrifice taste and quality. There is also a knee-jerk anger some people have for vegans and vegan products, a fact other brands have played off of.

But Bolduc says the category is not niche anymore and is becoming much more mainstream. However, while there may not be the aversion to the term that there once was, there is still the perception that being a vegan is hard and requires strict adherence to its rules, which is why the creative aims to show people that it is okay to go at their own pace.

“We believe in small steps, in progress, toward bigger and more positive changes,” she says.

Though Silk is the legacy brand in plant-based dairy, having been established in 1977, there is an increasing need to differentiate itself as challengers from Earth’s Own to Elmhurst 1925 try to take away some of its market share. The latest campaign, Bolduc says, is to keep that strong momentum going by reaching consumers who have adopted more health-conscious behaviours during COVID – plant-based beverages, in particular, have seen accelerated demand.

“In just a few months, the category gained one point of penetration, which is big,” Bolduc says. She adds that Silk is continuing to put “a lot of effort into R&D” to continually improve product quality, add on-trend varieties and incorporate other plant bases for its products. It also recently modernized its packaging to give it bolder colours and make it more recognizable on shelf.

The new campaign would’ve been launched in March, but when it became clear that the pandemic wasn’t going to allow that to happen, the brand decided to shift sights to the the fall, which Bolduc says is a bit like New Year’s in that many people use it as an opportunity to commit or re-commit to their health.

Momentum is the creative agency on the campaign, with Wavemaker on media strategy, Carl Social Club, social and National on PR.