Plant-based sausage and bacon brand This beefs up its guerrilla marketing strategy
We catch up with newly appointed marketing director Dee Bulsara to hear how she’s bringing a fresh set of eyes to the meat alternative company’s attention-grabbing stunts.
Dee Bulsara / This
This has made quite the name for itself as a master of stunt advertising, ‘sponsoring’ the Leicestershire town of Quorn and tricking an Italian food show into thinking its plant-based products were artisan meats.
Now, co-founders Andy Shovel and Pete Sharman are putting some meat on its marketing strategy, bringing in Dee Bulsara as its first-ever marketing director as the business gears up for its biggest year of ad spend.
A former Sainsbury’s and Soap & Glory senior marketer, Bulsara tells The Drum: “This has already done so much, but I’ve come in with a fresh set of eyes and there is an opportunity to do so much more.”
The marketing stunts that helped it break through in a crowded meat-free market are the brainchild of Shovel, and while Bulsara says they will remain a core part of the marketing strategy, it is now her job to “amplify” them. It is “about ensuring his stunts are reaching a certain audience and about how we capture more audience,” she says.
With her feet now firmly under the desk, Bulsara has commissioned a major piece of market research to uncover untapped consumers and understand new marketing methods to convert meat eaters. “I want to come in and put the consumer at the heart of everything we do,” she says. “I want to really understand those consumer touchpoints and then turn up at all those touchpoints, repeatedly and consistently, so we are always top of mind.“
Currently, This’s customer base is made up of Gen Z, millennials and pre-family, which Bulsara puts down to its past marketing strategy. “Yes, we have our core audience, but what we want to know is who is our stretch audience and how do we talk to them?”
With plans to scale up its advertising in 2023, This will finally venture above the line and has its first TV spot planned. Bulsara has also set her sights on more targeted marketing.
With inflation on course to hit 18% in the first half of next year, however, it could prove a tricky time to scale a more expensive plant-based product that could be seen as a luxury. A pack of This sausages cost £3 at Tesco, for example, compared with £1 for some own brand meat-based bangers. You can also buy eight beef burgers at the supermarket for the same price as two This burgers.
Asked about the pressures of inflation, Bulsara says the whole idea behind This is to make plant-based meat accessible, so consumer cost is front of mind. “Thanks to some herculean efforts from all parts of the business, we’re managing to lower some of the end costs. And importantly, this isn’t without sacrificing the exceptional hyper-realism or nutritional qualities we’ve become known for.”
Along with the cost of living crisis, Bulsara has her work cut out competing in an incredibly crowded meat-alternative market. Beyond Meat, Quorn, Vivera and Heura are all battling it out in a UK plant-based market that is currently valued at $489m and is expected to hit $726m in 2025.
“One of the biggest challenges we have is the plethora of brands joining the market.” To stand out in a crowded marketplace, she says, you have to “carve out your niche”. For This, that’s hyper-realistic meat.
This wants to market itself as a meat-free alternative for everybody, not just vegetarians and vegans. “We are very much about the flexitarians, very much about meat reducers, but it is about how we get to them and show them you can have an alternative and that it can taste as good as meat – that is what we need to get across.”
Growth in the category, says Bulsara, will be down to pulling in customers from the meat aisle. “As a brand, we aren’t about turning the world vegan. It’s about getting to the masses to give the biggest impact. It’s a mass market play.”