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Impossible Meats Possible

April 2024

This is a self-funded case study using our packaging testing solution.

Sometimes, jumping into the deep end is necessary to create the biggest splash possible — and plant-based protein brand, Impossible Foods, has launched a bold new identity to achieve just that. Aiming to expand from an exclusively vegan and vegetarian consumer base, the brand is targeting the broader population of meat-eaters to build their plant-based empire. Says Impossible Foods CEO, Peter McGuiness: “We want to be inclusive to anyone who enjoys great food. It doesn’t matter if you’re a vegan, a vegetarian, an animal meat-lover, or somewhere in between.”

The brand sees its window of opportunity as leaning into meat-adjacent associations, rather than railing against them. Gone is the herbivorous green-teal foundation, instead replaced with a distinctively blood-like red, aiming to capitalize on associations with real meat and protein. While some were turned off by the color’s bloody connotations, for the majority it elicited feelings of excitement and happiness, resulting in strong shelf standout.

To hammer things home, the new pack amplified meat comparable nutritional information through more prominent typography, clearer information hierarchy, and contrasting colors. Not only did this better spotlight the health benefits associated with plant-based products, but it also delivered on all the advantages found in meat-based alternatives. A small but significant slogan alteration from “made from plants” to “meat from plants” completed the identity shift.

Unsurprisingly, de-prioritizing the brand’s well-known plant-based attributes jarred with people’s expectations. However, to mitigate the risk of losing all its hard-earned brand equity, the new packaging maintained key branding elements to ensure people still recognized who was behind the product, most notably through the emboldened wordmark and familiar product descriptors. With the color not already associated with any other close competitors, people acknowledged that it could quickly become a uniquely identifiable cue for Impossible.

While impressions of the brand offering tasty and healthy products were largely consistent across both the old and new designs, the new pack’s focus on the product’s meat-like qualities created strong perceived differentiation versus competitive offerings, without negatively impacting predisposition to purchase.

Ultimately, color can be an extremely dangerous element to play around with for established brands, as it creates friction for shoppers and makes you less easy to find and buy. This can spell bad news when it prompts people to instead investigate alternative options. But thoughtful consideration to maintaining the brand’s wider collection of branding properties can help mitigate this, with supporting communications (both in-store and more widely) playing an important role in the transition.

But still, when done to capitalize on a bigger strategic opportunity it must be acknowledged that some short-term pain will likely be felt in the process. All things considered, our research shows that Impossible has navigated these challenges as best it could, providing a blueprint for other brands looking to embark on a radical repositioning and subsequent design overhaul.

Get in touch to speak to one of our consultants about our packaging testing solution. Expert-led, evidence-based insights — which don’t break the bank.

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