Products labelled as ‘vegan’ and ‘meat free’ see reduced sales

New research from the World Resources Institute has found that labelling plant-based products as ‘vegan’ or ‘meat-free’ wards consumers away from the items, rather than towards them.

The two-year long study found that consumers felt these terms place an emphasis on ingredients that are lacking from the products and place a negative connotation on it. In a world where meat-eaters have to reduce their intake of animal products, ensuring the most effective language is used is important for the success of a product.

The study asked consumers to rank different keywords and terms used to describe food, with phrases such as ‘gluten-free’, ‘organic’, and ‘ethically sourced’ in the selection. The results of the study found that 35 per cent of consumers find the word ‘vegan’ the least appealing, second to the word ‘diet’.

Furthermore, Brandwatch, a social media intelligence firm analysed 15 million posts on different social media platforms and found that the term ‘vegan’ was twice as likely to be used negatively than the phrase ‘plant-based’.

Edward Cook, global research vice president at Brandwatch, said: “Our analysis found the vegan lexicon to be quite divisive online, and it may prevent some people from experimenting with the growing range of plant-based proteins available.

To broaden mainstream appeal, new language is needed that avoids an ‘us-them’ mentality.”

Using different language to appeal to everyone is creating inclusivity and not restricting the product to vegans only. Branding something as vegan-specific makes non-vegans think that an item is lesser a product and is targeted only to those who choose to avoid animal ingredients.

In 2017, as the plant-based boom was beginning, Sainsbury’s renamed one of their vegetarian products to see how it affected sales. The item was previously called ‘Meat-Free Sausage and Mash’ and they changed the name to ‘Cumberland Spiced Veggie Sausages and Mash’, which resulted in a 76.2 per cent increase in sales.

This test proved successful as shortly after, the retailer launched the Love Your Veg range, which has seen additions to the range since its launch.

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