Posted by Laura Williams
28th January, 2020

Insights the game changers Insights the game changers

Game changing plant-based sales

Today we’re more educated about food and nutrition than ever before. Over the last decade we’ve seen documentaries like ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘What the Health’ play an important role in challenging misconceptions about food and shedding light on the implications of the meat and dairy industry. Many of them have encouraged us to consider a plant-based diet to improve our health, minimise our carbon footprint and take a stance against animal cruelty. But none have shared the same shattering level of impact as pro-vegan documentary ‘The Game Changers’, at the end of last year.

Released in November 2019, the documentary added a new and game-changing perspective to the mix, challenging one of the few remaining misconceptions about food: that meat is fundamental to athletic performance. Presented by Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Cameron, Lewis Hamilton, Noka Djokovia and Chris Paul, it captured audiences around the world, becoming iTunes’s best-selling documentary of all time and helping to send the sales of many plant-based brands across the globe skyrocketing in the same month.

Insights the game changers poster Insights the game changers poster

The film follows elite Special Forces trainer and Ultimate Fighter Champion, James Wilks on his quest to find the perfect diet for athletic performance and recovery. As he documents the positive effects of a plant-based diet on soldiers, athletes and everyday people, it has prompted audiences to question the need for meat at all. Some of the myth-busting claims include the following:

Protein originates in plants

One of the biggest misconceptions in the sports industry is that we need meat to be strong. “That’s just not true”, stated Dr James Loomis, former physician for the Louis Rams football and Cardinals baseball teams in the US. And strongman Patrik Baboumian recounts: “One person asked me how can you get as strong as an ox without eating meat? And my answer was, have you ever seen an ox eating meat?”

Plant-based protein improves blood flow

Dr Robert Vogel, cochair of the NFL Subcommittee on Cardiovascular Health, showed how plant-based protein increases blood flow, while a single portion of meat can have a negative impact on your blood flow for up to 7 hours after consumption.

A plant-based diet reduces the risk of heart disease

People following a plant-based diet reduce their risk of heart disease by up to 55%. "When the protein found in animals is cooked, preserved, or even just digested by our gut bacteria, highly inflammatory compounds are formed that corrode our cardiovascular system" explained Wilks.

Plant-based sales skyrocket

Over the last decade plant-based brands have partnered with athletes to endorse their products and emphasise the benefits of plant protein. British brand The Primal Pantry partnered with Olympic rower Zac Purchase, America’s Beyond Meat reeled off a series of top athletes including Free Solo’s fearless rock climber Alex Honnold, and Quorn famously heroed runner Mo Farah in their TV campaigns following his success at the 2012 Olympics. Joe Taylor even co-founded nutritious British snack bar brand Real Handful, during his hunt for plant-based protein to fuel his triathlon training. But ‘The Game Changers’ has helped plant-based brands break into new audiences on a different level, reaching pro and amateur athletes ready to release their muscular grip on meat.

The documentary is not without criticism, with arguments claiming that the on-screen experiments are too small to produce hard evidence, or that the full picture isn't presented. Nevertheless, interest has captured the Western world’s imagination and many plant-based brands are already reaping the benefits. British brand All Plants told Plant Based News that the company saw a 66% increase in sales in the month following the documentary’s release. In addition, they received numerous enquiries from athletes and sports clubs with an interest in plant-based eating. Prep, a Kiwi vegan ready-made meal business also saw sales quadruple in the same month. "A lot of people come into our kitchen and say they have watched the movie and it had a massive impact, they want to give plant-based meals a try" said owner, Natalie Richards.

Your brand game changers: profit, planet and people

With the growing popularity of vegan living, plant-based diets and documentaries like The Game Changers, our obsession with plant-based brands will continue to rise. In fact, Mintel predicts that the industry will be valued at £1.1bn by 20231, and a report from Barclays suggests the global market will grow $140bn within a decade2. But the spike in interest is not without competition; with more start-ups emerging and mainstream brands like KFC and Greggs turning their hand to plant-based NPDs.

So how can brands survive and thrive? By finding the perfect balance of triple bottom line sustainability: profit, planet and people. Brands who want to succeed in the current climate should aim to measure success through making a profit while simultaneously having a positive impact on the environment and society.

The importance of this framework is only emphasised by an increased pressure on brands from conscious consumers, with a criteria tick-list. They are conscious, conscientious and critical, and they want to see evidence of authenticity, sustainability and transparency. Brands will need to go beyond printing this checklist on their product packaging, website copy and social media posts. It will be the brands that operate authentically and prove they really care about the world that will succeed in the next decade.


  • 1. Mintel, Plant-based push: UK sales of meat-free foods shoot up 40% between 2014-19, January 2020.
  • 2. Barclays, Carving up the alternative meat market, August 2019.