APEX Insight: Virgin Australia’s Got Beef campaign capitalizes on the controversy caused by Air New Zealand’s decision to serve the meat-free Impossible Burger in flight.

Last month, Air New Zealand announced that it would introduce the (meat free) Impossible Burger on flights from LAX to Auckland. Though most of the reaction was positive, some politicians and farming groups in New Zealand accused the airline of harming the country’s beef industry by stocking a product which claims to be a vegetarian alternative that tastes, smells and even sizzles like the real thing.

Enter Virgin Australia, which capitalized on the controversy by launching a search for New Zealand’s best beef, which will be served on all New Zealand to Australia flights. Virgin Australia says that the end result will actually be a bespoke dish, “designed to showcase the quality of local New Zealand produce.” The aim is to make the winning dish available to passengers on trans-Tasman flights as soon as October.

As well as running its search for the best New Zealand beef, Virgin Australia has been taking its “Battle of the Burgers” to the streets of Auckland. On August 1st, it teamed up with iconic burger bar “The White Lady” to give away 500 burgers.

Virgin Australia has even managed to get Kiwi politicians sounding off about the beef issue (again). MP Mark Patterson, who had originally expressed outrage at Air New Zealand’s “Impossible Burger” move, came out supporting Virgin Australia. In a press release he is quoted as saying: “Good on the Aussies for recognizing our world class beef and lamb, and I am delighted that our produce is being promoted by our closest neighbors. It’s great to see an airline backing our Kiwi beef farmers.”

In an interview with New Zealand news website The Spinoff, Patterson admits that the whole thing is something of a marketing stunt. The whole thing is “potentially a little bit opportunistic, but it’s a win-win. If they’re prepared to showcase our top-quality premium New Zealand red meat, then who are we to argue against it?”

This case study was featured in SimpliFlying’s Airline Marketing Benchmark Report, which showcases the top airline branding strategies each month. Find out more here.