Photo Credit: Unsplash/Eaters Collective

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Eaters Collective

What’s in a succulent, mouth-watering name?

There are numerous reasons we should eat less meat. It’s better for the planet. It’s better for our bodies. And non-meat options also can taste really good.

The problem is meat also tastes good and, furthermore, the way we describe meat and meat-based dishes sounds really good.  A Bison Prairie Burger or a Double Angus Beef Burger sounds lot more mouth-watering than a Vegetarian Burger or a Meat-Free Burger, names which tend to focus on what the product lacks and therefore primes people to think about what they are missing out on.

As detailed in this NPR story, recently featured on the wonderful OZ Twitter feed, the World Resource Institute’s Better Buying Lab recently teamed up with food companies in the UK and US to learn how names affect preference for meatless options.  Names that highlight the provenance of a particular food, its flavor, or its mouth feel make a big difference.

For example, when Panera changed the name of its “Vegetarian Black Bean Soup” to “Cuban Black Bean Soup,” sales rose 18 percent. When Sainsbury’s in the UK rebranded its “Meat-Free Sausage and Mash” as “Cumberland-spiced Veggie Sausage and Mash,” sales skyrocketed 76 percent.

Consumers unconsciously form consumption visions (mental simulations of what the product experience will be like) before they select a meal from a menu or a shelf -- and the way that meal is described seems to have a massive effect on that consumption vision.

As stated in the article, this sounds like Marketing 101.  But apparently it is not, because those who make and market vegetarian and vegan options have long given short shrift to the value of a tasty-sounding name.

This is a great example of a marketing nudge at work. No need to hector people or guilt-trip them into eating better. Just make the healthy food sound tastier.