Speaker Profile: Daniel Eb

In 2018 Daniel founded Dirt Road Comms to help inspire transformation of the rural New Zealand story in the digital age. The agency is a fusion of his consumer brand-building professional background and rural Northland experience.

He focusses on the role of marketing and narrative in the food system, regularly commenting on how issues like the rising vegan movement or disruptive food production impact the NZ farming story.

Read on for more from Daniel!

The vegans are coming! Why the end of meat could be closer than we think

In a time of shifting consumer tastes, mounting health trends, environmental issues and the rise of alternative proteins, meat-eating farm boy Daniel Eb looks to a vegan future.

For many Kiwi food producers, the future of meat is hard to stomach.

Two recent events underscore the anxiety of a nation grappling with disruptive technology – Air New Zealand’s Impossible Burger and Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s report on alternative proteins.

Air New Zealand’s decision is a watershed moment. Where before we felt removed from the reach of alternative proteins, now we are compelled to ‘pick a side’ – support the farmers or embrace the force challenging their livelihoods. The Beef + Lamb report acknowledges that the future of meat will be shaped by shifting consumer tastes, mounting health trends, environmental issues and the rise of alternative proteins. It recognises that the industry must diversify, innovate or premium-ise to withstand disruption.

Beef + Lamb outline several future scenarios’ for meat. These can be described as alternative protein’s take-over, meat survives as a premium product or business as usual.

This article grapples with the very real, very troubling question raised by scenario one – is there an end to meat?

What if?

This is a painful piece to write. I’m a farm boy. I eat meat. I love rural New Zealand.

I see animal agriculture as central to our economic system, landscape and national identity. Despite recent tussles over the non-existent urban-rural divide, water use and the like, we are all inextricably tied to the humble dairy cow, cattle beast and sheep.

It’s hard to imagine losing all that. But we have to.  

We need to accept that our agricultural model now has fundamental weaknesses in the face of rapid social and technological change. When I hear things like “there will always be a market for real meat”, I hear an assumption based on a lifetime of personal experience. I hear denial because the alternative just doesn’t seem feasible.

I don’t know what the future of meat will be, but I know that we can’t plan on gut feelings anymore.

The vegans are coming!

First, the numbers. The British Vegan society cites a 360% rise in self-identified vegans over the last decade. More recent polling suggests that number could be as high as 3.5 million. Up to 6% of US consumers self-identify as vegan and 40% of German’s follow a low-meat diet… the Germans! Perhaps the best indicator, Google search trend data for ‘vegan’ shows a 5-fold increase in the last decade, with New Zealand behind only Australia in relative increase.  

The world of vegan and plant-based media can be generalised as a mash-up of activist culture, mega-influencers and celebrity endorsement, all with increasingly mainstream traction.

The vegan culture current is powered by an explosion of popular vegan Instagram stars and a long list of vegan celebrities.  There’s no going back once Jay-Z and Beyoncé announce a vegan food delivery service and 22-day vegan challenge. In late 2018, Titanic director James Cameron will release The Game Changers, a film that charts vegan transformation through the stories of elite athletes. The effect of activist cinema should not be minimised, just ask SeaWorld.

When thinking about the future of food, our eyes should be firmly fixed on the millennials and Generation Z. In New Zealand, 13% of 14-34 year olds self-describe as vegetarian, up 50% between 2011 and 2015 (against a population-wide increase of 27%). In the US, research indicates that Gen Z college students are re-defining food on campus, consume several times more plant-based food and beverages than their older counterparts and subscribe to flexitarian diets at higher rates. Gen Z are on track to be the largest generation of consumers in the US by 2020.

We also need to accept that the term ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’ only accounts for the tip of the spear. The rise of the flexitarian diet (one of Whole Foods’ top diet trends of 2017) and the marked decrease in red meat consumption in NZ are case in point. In the same way that social media and smartphones only came of age when their user base hit exponential growth, it’s the actions of the masses that really matter.  

Enabling this rising consumer trend are a new generation of plant-based commercial interests.

The numbers tell a story of sustained category growth in most western markets. The UK for example is slated to see vegan foods grow 48% between 2015 and 2020. But the real story is behind the scenes – the explosion of Vegan venture capital. As covered by NZ’s own Future Food strategist Dr Rosie Bosworth, the next wave of plant-based innovation is being bankrolled by some of the smartest minds and the deepest pockets in the world.

Whatever angle you look at this movement, the writing is on the wall. Veganism is not just here to stay, it’s destined to grow.

Source: The SpinOff

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