Marketing items as ‘vegan’ is ‘bad for sales’

Josh Hall's picture
by Josh Hall
Food 9

Common marketing labels such as “vegan”, “vegetarian”, or “meat-free” are driving down sales, according to new research.

A two-year study by the World Resources Institute (WRI) of US and UK consumers found that the “vegan” label was amongst the least appealing to prospective buyers, with 35 per cent saying it would make them less likely to buy an item.

The study suggests that consumers are deterred by the negative connotations of phrases such as “meat-free” or “gluten-free”.

Instead, it appears that marketers may have more luck using phrases and words that highlight the positive aspects of the product. For example, in a separate study by social media monitoring company Brandwatch, the phrase “plant-based” was found to be half as likely to be used negatively in social media posts than the word “vegan”.

Sainsbury’s appeared to have proved this hypothesis in 2017, with the rebranding of one of its vegetarian sausages. It renamed its “Meat-Free Sausage and Mash” product to “Cumberland Spiced Veggie Sausages and Mash” and saw at 76 per cent increase in sales.

Commenting on the social study, Brandwatch vice president Edward Crook said: “Out analysis found the vegan lexicon to be quite divisive online, and it may prevent some people experimenting with the growing range of plant-based proteins available.

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

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