Sol Cuisine hits the road to promote ‘Sol food’

Who: Sol Cuisine, with Edelman Toronto, Salt XC for sampling and Colour for media.

What: “Mission North America,” the first brand campaign for the plant-based food company in its 25-year history. “We’ve never actually grown using traditional marketing tools,” said chief marketing officer Ken Cross. “It’s been a great year of figuring out what we want to stand for, where we want to go, and where we want to be.”

When & Where: The year-long program is living mostly online through paid and organic video and social, complemented by some influencer and in-store promotions. There is also a dedicated content hub on the Sol Cuisine website.

Why: The objective is to accelerate the organic growth created by Sol Cuisine founder and president Dror Balshine, said Cross, a veteran CPG marketer with companies including Voortman Bakery, The Clorox Company and Maple Leaf Foods, who joined the company last year. Balshine largely built the brand by going door-to-door to restaurants and retailers and urging them to consider adding vegetarian and vegan options to their menu/product assortment.

The company is in the midst of a growth period caused by widespread consumer adoption of plant-based meat alternatives. Its revenues rose 41% in the past year, compared to 20% for the category as a whole, and Sol Cuisine began trading on the TSX Venture Exchange earlier this year.

Much of its growth is coming from “flexitarians” who are dabbling in plant-based food either for ethical or environmental reasons. At the same time, Sol Cuisine is up against a wave of new and established companies in the plant-based space—including offerings from deep-pocketed competitors like Maple Leaf Foods and Conagra Brands.

How: The campaign is kicking off with video assets that show Balshine going door-to-door with families in Alberta, cooking them meals like Italian meatball subs and chicken nuggets that substitute Sol Cuisine for meat products. The company also created a recent Halloween-themed video in which Balshine donned a cauliflower costume and urged consumers to face their fears about plant-based by handing out free samples of the company’s new Buffalo Cauliflower Wings.

Sol Cuisine’s distinctive backstory provides it with a key point of differentiation compared to corporate entities in the space, said Cross. “Dror can only be the founder of one brand,” he said. “It’s a little bit difficult for [a company like] Conagra to go out and talk about a really interesting backstory, because that’s not what they are. We have a founder and spokesperson who’s really credible, and we got consumer feedback [indicating] he was engaging and likeable, so it works hard for us on a whole bunch of fronts.”

Why Alberta? Early in the video Balshine describes the province as “the meat-eating capital of Canada.” Winning over a group of people known for their fondness for meat is a perfect way of demonstrating that Sol Cuisine can meet the taste and texture requirements of even the most ardent meat-eater, said Cross. “It was a little bit of a torture test to go into the land of the meat-eaters and say ‘Hey, try us too,'” he said.

Future efforts in the campaign will attempt to reach people who are already dabbling in plant-based products, said Cross. “It will try to capture those people who are kicking the tires on the category and engage them in a way [that will convince them] to try the product out and realize how great it can be.”

And we quote: “Taste in food is sometimes a difficult story to tell… so what we wanted to do is make sure we were delivering our message in a way that was authentic and credible.” —Ken Cross, chief marketing officer, Sol Cuisine

Chris Powell