Comment: Hubbub tackles a meaty issue

The evidence is clear on the need to reduce our meat consumption, which is why environmental charity Hubbub has launched a series of campaigns to showcase the appeal of plant-based protein. By Tessa Tricks.

We need to talk about animal protein. At the current rate, global consumption of meat and dairy is predicted to double by 2050, amassing global health and environmental costs of up to $1.6 trillion (£1.2 trillion), according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

This is why Hubbub has launched a series of targeted campaigns to support the British public in consuming more plant-based protein. With the support of catering provider BaxterStorey, our first pilot, Meat Your Match, targeted those who hold protein in highest esteem and consume large quantities of meat – young, gym-going men.

The design of Meat Your Match drew from insights gained during our 2016 Protein Pressures research with the University of Southampton and four years’ experience running successful behaviour change campaigns.

Public knowledge on plant-based protein is poor and yet there is a huge interest among the population in protein more generally. In the words of a 2016 BBC documentary on the subject: right now, “anything with the word ‘protein’ on it will sell”. We saw the opportunity to highlight the naturally occurring protein in plants to this interested audience and explored ways to package and land the message.

The pilot was run at Nationwide’s head office and was open specifically to male employees aged 24-40. Recruitment was supported by the in-house gym. Participants were challenged to halve their animal-based protein and supported to replace it with plant-based protein over a two-month period.

Those stepping up to the challenge received a Garmin fitness tracker to help them monitor progress and a personal consultation with a nutritional practitioner who provided them with personalised, accessible and flavourful meal planning guidance to help them meet their fitness objectives and complete the challenge. BaxterStorey, Nationwide’s in-house catering provider, highlighted suitable menu choices to participants and contributed to their recipe packs.

To further support the journey, normalise the dietary shift and ignite a little healthy competition, participants were connected through an online platform and WhatsApp group. We also introduced plant-based sports nutrition products such as Tribe and Nuzest in an attempt to move away from whey, which served as healthy swaps for many.

The results were positive. Eighty percent of participants halved the amount of meat they ate, with 86% of these going on to say they were likely to continue to reduce their meat intake as a result of the challenge.

All participants reported improvements in health and wellbeing, noting greater energy levels and more diverse diets. Attitudes towards meat shifted, with 42% of participants saying they would be likely to order a vegetarian meal when out with friends, compared with just 6% before the trial.

BaxterStorey’s willingness to become involved was driven both by a knowledge that if people feel physically and mentally well they perform better, and by a desire to demonstrate commitment to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, which will require a significant reduction in meat consumption.

Meat Your Match has myriad implications for all workplaces and their catering providers which are looking to provide healthier, more sustainable meal options. As a simple first step we would recommend increasing offerings of plant-based proteins at mealtimes and promoting them with positive, memorable and aspirational messaging on health, which our research shows is the primary driver of behaviour change, with environmental messaging working to reinforce.

Meat Your Match has also produced in-company ambassadors who are well placed to support their peers in making a transition to healthier, greener lifestyles. Hubbub is here to help any organisation wanting to improve employee health and wellbeing and increase the sustainability of their company. Get in touch to find out more about bespoke company challenges or messaging campaigns.

Tessa Tricks is creative partner at Hubbub

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