“You’re Vegetarian. Don’t Eat Quorn.”

People have come up to me to ask why some people advertise vegetarian food with meaty labels, often along with the opinion that I should not eat Quorn or any other meat-like but meat-free substances. I think it is because I am vegetarian, not because they think I am part of a committee meeting where they decided there shall be meaty labels. For your information, I have never been part of that committee or have claimed to be. Though, there are times where other vegetarians are in the room, so maybe they did think I was in the committee before I even studied psychology in university.

I have not asked or demanded anyone to stop eating meat either.

Meat-free squid? From the website, Veggie World

For those unfamiliar with Quorn, it is one option among many others of meat-free protein sources (Trinci, 1992). Though I, too, would prefer if meat-free food was not advertised as meat-free meat, I can see why marketers would choose the meaty label option.

Humans tend to mistrust unfamiliar foods and food processed in novel ways (Birch, 1999; Martins & Pliner, 1993; Cardello, 2003). Meanwhile, these “pretend meat” pieces should not have gone through the traditional process of being chopped off an animal (Food Standards Agency, 2006). Nor should vegetarian food be made from blending a whole animal into a pulp or whatever happens to those animals (Food Standards Agency, 2006). Therefore, the marketers of the once new, fungal food had the challenge of making an innovation appear acceptable, and they ran a load of tests to find that Quorn is acceptable for most people to eat in the first place (Trinci, 1992).

I like to call this type of Quorn as “White Quorn Bits” in my head with the first letter of each word capitalised.

Moreover, introducing something very new can be hard due to the difficulty of explaining never-existed-in-similar-forms-before products (Moreau, Lehmann & Markman, 2001; Ram & Sheth, 1989; Veryzer, 1998). Hence, there is no concise explanations like “Oreo cookie chocolate spread”. Instead, following behind the innovator and running along the marketing path created by the innovators’ explanations can be better for companies than actually innovating (Shankar, Carpenter & Krishnamurthi, 1998). In fact, companies can make more profit from the innovators than the original inventor, providing that they are not too late to market without anything new to offer (Shankar et al., 1998). Hence, marketing innovations also have the challenge of the products being harder to explain.

Still, there are ways to market Quorn, keeping in mind that Quorn was a discontinuous innovation, a food substance radically different from existing products (Birkinshaw, Bessant & Delbridge, 2006; Junarsin, 2009; Trinci, 1992). To market discontinuous food innovations, it may be advisable to play down the uniqueness and associate with existing products like what the marketers did for Quorn (Howells, 1997; van Trijp & van Kleef, 2008). For an example outside the food world, the “television” was mentioned to be like a telegraph but for pictures (The New York Times, 1907)! This is a different story for continuous innovation, where you may have to stress the change, for example, “Look, look, the new phone is a thinner. How groundbreaking! This is worth dropping you current phone for!” Hence, this may be why someone decided that Quorn should somewhat resemble meat (Howells, 1997; Trinci, 1992).

Associating discontinuous innovations with familiar products can provide consumers with some understanding of the product and something to compare the product to (Moreau et al., 2001; Veryzer, 1998). Therefore, the meaty labels can help people better predict what these protein chucks are like as they decide whether they want to give it a try or not. Still, there may be a risk of associating these meat-free products to meat. If the product does not fulfill the expectancy created, consumers can react more negatively than if the association was never made (Siret & Issanchou, 2000). Hence, if people disagree on how meat-like the product was, they may dislike meat-free, meat-like food more than if the product was never said to be meat-like. Therefore, I see why meaty labels are used to advertised meat-free food, but I also see that it is not a risk-free strategy.

Anyway, is there anything wrong with pretend meat or pretend anything if it is made clear that it is fake?

p3286Unicorn meat without actual unicorn meat or any other type of meat. According to Firebox it should not even be food

Copyright © 2013 Thoughts for Creation



  1. Hey, great blog. I personally think that fake/flavoured/copycat products should be available and acceptable as long as it is clear how similar (or not) they are to the original product it is being associated with. One example of this I have found recently is that WKD the high sugar alcoholic drink (alcopop) does in fact contain vodka. This can be assumed from it’s advertising. The issue however is that other cheaper copycat drinks such as K2 are actually wine based. This will have a huge effect on the alcoholic effect and subsequent hangover. Although they have not indicated that they include vodka, as they are advertised and the cheaper alternative to WKD, this could potentially be wrongly assumed by consumers.

    Also on a very different note I looked at the Unicorn product on Amazon. Anyone care to hazard a guess on why that is the item frequently bought with it? I would love to hear your suggestions!


  2. Is it wrong that I’m now craving Unicorn Meat? I imagine it’s pretty sweet…

    I have always puzzled over how vegetarians can eat something that “tastes like meat” if it’s not meat, and they possibly have never eaten meat. I’m a big fan of Quorn all the same and I’m a meatatatatarian…..thing.

    In my own experience Quorn is more suited to the ‘converted’ vegetarian, since they probably miss meat, but don’t want the ethical baggage of real meat, so this is a comfortable medium between the 2. The associations of the packaging possibly aid in making the transition easier, thus perhaps increasing the chances of a repeat purchase.

  3. Another great blog Thoughts for creation. Anyways, first thing first, I tend to write my comments up in the word document first? But sadly when I typed in Quorn, it has that little red snake like line under, which indicates it is a “wrong” or unknown word? And in reality, to me anyways, I have no idea what it is until I read your blog, so thanks for the info.

    I think there is nothing wrong with associating vegetarian food with meaty labels. Perhaps to me, as a “regular” food eating person, not saying you are not regular but I do not quite know how I should categorize my eating habit as? And the word “regular” is the best one I can think of, but yes back to the topic. Back at home (Hong Kong) restaurants present vegetarian food similar to meat dishes, they also named them vegetarian pork chop (of course in Chinese). Again, I think this is due to the fact that people are not quite used to vegetarian food, of course, apart from vegetarians, but in order to expand the vegetarian market, it is therefore I believe they have to tag their products to something familiar or at least known to consumers, or else, non-vegetarian consumers would probably just ignored the products on shelves as they cannot simply integrate their memories and identify the products.

  4. How do you know someone is a vegetarian? ……………. Don’t worry, they’ll tell you!!!

    This joke always went over my head a bit because, lots of my friends are vegetarians and none of them have ever tried to convert me or shove it in my face. They respect my decision to chomp on chicken burgers just like I admire them for sticking to the tofu and… Quorn. I love Quorn. I would happily pick of a bag of the chicken substitute stuff if I so fancied. However, I’m not so gone on tofu or chickpeas or other high-protein foods that seem to have that ‘vegeterian’ label hovering over them. Your blog has made me think that in making Quorn look like a meat substitude, they are also enticing the meat-eaters if they wanted to try a different, lighter option. Perhaps it saves them from completely eliminating the non-vegeterians out there? It ties in nicely with the point that you made about playing down the uniqueness. “Quorn – its not so different from my usual chicken, I could definately use this in my stirfry tonight!” Its a good attempt at targeting a wider audiance.

  5. Although I don’t base my diet on meat, I’m not a vegetarian. So my opinion is not given from a non meat-eater point of view. Nevertheless I don’t get the point of eating meat-liking food if you are a vegetarian: I think these products might help people that come from an omnivorous background and are starting a vegetarian diet, because they could just adapt their meals’ format to a vegetarian one. For example, making a meat-free chicken sandwich for lunch. But although it might de difficult and sometimes not so convenient, from my optical, a vegetarian should not follow a “meat-free but meat formatted diet”, as I think it goes against their principles. In my opinion somebody who is vegetarian should claim different protein sources against the established animal sources, such as pulses, nuts or cereals, as an example.

  6. I’ve seen so much soi ‘meat’ in shops so far and every time I was wondering who buys that and if it’s really eatable. But actually is it really surprising?… I’m not a vegetarian and I don’t think that eating meat is better than not doing that, but let’s just think objectively. It seems like from the point of view of evolution, smell and\or taste of meat is a signal – ‘eat me and you’ll become strong, you’ll get more energy and survive’. So even if vegetarian consumers are not aware of that, they cannot cheat their brain. Brain need sugar, brain needs real protein to work properly and supply the body with it for a well life. So after consideration of this idea I decided that it’s kind of wise of selling this staff…because I bet considerable procent of vegetarians sometime long for meat. =)

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