Vegans and vegetarians are very different consumers, says new survey

March 8, 2019

One in four consumers surveyed support banning meat-related words on plant-based products. Most of those are vegans. 

According to a new survey commissioned by Ingredient Communications, the question of whether plant-based products should have meat-related names, is more complex than one might think. Nearly 1,000 consumers were surveyed in the U.K. and U.S., including vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians, and meat-eaters.

Whether one should use words that have a animal-based connotation on a plant-based product, has been an ongoing debate. In Europe, dairy product names, like “milk,” on non-dairy products is prohibited and France has passed legislation of its own banning the use of words traditionally used for animal products by vegetarian product manufacturers. In the U.S., this debate is heating up with regard to the dairy industry and the booming plant-based dairy category. Plant-based food manufacturers argue that using meat-, or dairy-related names on plant-based products is a first amendment right, and that consumers are savvy enough to understand when something is plant-based or not. However, according to this survey, 25% of respondents supported a ban on using meat-related names on plant-based products. Interestingly enough, vegans were the majority of survey respondents who supported a ban (33%), following by meat-eaters at 26%. Vegetarians were least likely to support a ban, at 18%.

“It’s no secret that many in the meat industry want to stop what they see as the misrepresentation of vegetarian products,” said Richard Clarke, managing director of Ingredient Communications, in a press release. “What is perhaps surprising is that so many consumers also seem to support a ban. With interest in plant-based diets increasing, and a backlash from the meat industry under way, it is time for a debate about the way vegetarian and vegan products are presented.”

More than a lifestyle diet, veganism is a belief system. More specifically, vegans believe that using animals as a resource, whether that be dairy, pelt, or meat, is cruel and immoral. Therefore, it’s only natural that many would be repulsed by meat-sounding products. According to the survey, 49% of vegetarians would be more likely to buy a plant-based product labeled with a meat name such as sausage, burger, or steak, compared to 19% of vegans. In fact, 57% of vegans said they were less likely to buy a product if it carried a meat-related name.

“The obvious lesson for manufacturers and marketers of plant-based products is that vegetarians and vegans are distinct consumer categories, with vastly different purchasing preferences,” said Neil Cary, managing director of Surveygoo, which conducted the survey for Ingredient Communications.