Taking on Legacy 'Plant-Based Meat' Brands: Q&A with THIS™ Co-Founder


When we talk about challenger brands, one category leading this challenge is meat replacement. Here, FastGrowthBrands hears from THIS™ co-founder Andy Shovel, a relatively young business in the category, but one that is already making significant waves. He discusses THIS’ goal of taking on not only the traditional meat market, but also legacy meat replacement brands.

There are a growing number of plant-based food startups out there – what makes THIS different? 

The meat-free category is just getting warmed up. We’ve only been trading for nine months but we’ve seen plenty of new category entrants in that time. Nonetheless, our thesis is that the market is growing enough to support several winners.

In terms of what makes us different – we’ve now fooled – on camera – circa 8,000 people into eating THIS, when they thought they were eating meat. There are barely any plant-based meat products on sale, that can fool consumers in the same way. From a texture, taste and appearance perspective, we feel that we’re at the leading edge of what’s possible.

We’re here to challenge legacy “plant-based meat” brands by targeting meat-reducers as opposed to purely vegans. Our core belief is that meat-eaters shouldn’t have to compromise if they want to cut down on meat. The brand is bold, relatable, & rebellious – without making judgement on consumers’ eating habits.

Who do you consider to be your target audience? How are you trying to appeal to meat eaters as well as vegetarians and vegans?

It’s incredibly broad. Anyone who enjoys the taste of meat, but recognises the need to reduce their animal meat consumption.

As well as trying to deliver market-leading realism to animal meat, we’re trying to onboard meat-eaters by harnessing humour in our marketing. We feel that often, peoples’ defences go up when they come across plant-based foods, and they can feel like they’re being lectured on their life-choices. We try and disarm consumers’ stigmas of the category with wit, pranks and generally larking about as a brand.

What has been your approach to customer acquisition so far? How do you think this will change as you grow?

Up to this point our main aim has been to let people know we exist. We’re pretty rebellious and like our products, our campaign hinges on surprising people and subverting expectation, especially meat-eaters who are typically averse to “meat-alternatives”.

We’re really grateful for our Insta tribe, who’ve been growing fast. 9 months into trading and we’re up to 62,000 followers. Also I like to think that we serve up some lols with our marketing videos. Once we fooled several thousand Londoners with an extremely compelling Ed Sheeran lookalike.

As we grow we’ll move into out of home advertising too – we’re toying with running a TV ad, and once we get out of lockdown, potentially some tube ads. But the aim will always be the same: shattering meat-eaters’ preconceptions of plant-based food, one rasher or nugget at a time.

You guys have already got a number of products. How do you plan to grow the range, and what is your process for adding new products to your range? What does the future hold for THIS?

We’d like THIS to become a household name in sustainable food – not just meat-alternatives. We also aim to partner with the largest foodservice brands in the western world. Basically we’d like to play our own meaningful role in the wider objective of making plant-based food truly UNQUESTIONABLY mainstream. The new norm.

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