Researchers from four universities conducted experiments in Britain and the US, looking at the connections between metaphors and different types of food. Their findings revealed that meat is considered more masculine than vegetables, and that people generally see meat-eating men as more masculine than vegetarians.
By analysing 23 languages that used gendered pronouns, the researchers also discovered that meat is related to the male gender in most languages.
The authors used their findings to make suggestions about how to increase sales of vegetables and soy products to men. They suggested that a campaign would not work, but making soy products look more like meat, and even giving them grill marks, could encourage men to switch proteins.
“To the strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, All-American male, red meat is a strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, All-American food,” they said.
“Soy is not. To eat it, they would have to give up a food they saw as strong and powerful like themselves for a food they saw as weak and wimpy.”
“In marketing, understanding the metaphor a consumer might have for a brand could move the art of positioning toward more of a science,” the authors concluded.