Vegan. Plant-based. Is there a difference? Why do so many brands (and people) try to distinguish themselves as one or the other? Does it really influence sales?
In some ways, it absolutely does. Some non-vegans will never purchase a product explicitly referred to as “vegan,” while ethical vegans find “plant-based” to be less meaningful.
So if you run a business with specifically vegan items, you might need to make a choice. Will you market your business or products as “vegan” or can you get away with labeling items as “plant-based”?
What’s the Issue?
There is a hesitance among clearly vegan brands or products to label themselves vegan. Despite more and more brands and restaurants creating vegan options, there is still a stigma surrounding the word “vegan.” Plenty of meat-eaters balk at the sight of the word and adamantly refuse to have something.
For these people, words like “plant-based” or even “cruelty-free” (if talking about makeup or another beauty product). It sounds healthy and/or ethical without the vegan label. On the other hand, ethical vegans may bristle at the phrase “plant-based,” as it seemingly removes the ethics behind the movement and seems to reduce it to nothing more than a fad diet.
Veganism is an ethical movement and lifestyle: it involves eliminating animal products from all aspects of your life, from food to clothes to health and beauty products. Meanwhile, being plant-based mostly pertains to your diet. Of course, this doesn’t mean the two can’t overlap: plant-based foods are generally vegan, and you can follow a plant-based diet while still caring about animal rights.
Despite their similarities, some people (and brands) are more comfortable labeling themselves as one compared to the other. So how can you know which is the right decision for your business?
Consider What You Are Offering
The “vegan” vs “plant-based” debate largely depends on your product. If you’re creating meatless chicken nuggets to sell to people, you can probably get away with calling your product “plant-based.” If you’re selling hair care products? That might not work as well.
Here’s the truth though: if your product doesn’t contain animal products, it’s automatically vegan. But if you’re worried about marketing yourself as a vegan company or product, certain items lend themselves better to the plant-based label.
Food can easily be labeled as “plant-based.” After all, vegan food is made from plants! So if you own a restaurant, you can call your food plant-based. If you sell specific food items that don’t contain any meat, dairy, eggs, or honey, you can say your products are plant-based…although, one would hardly call an accidentally vegan item like Oreos “plant-based,” would they?
However, if you are trying to sell makeup, nail polish, skincare, or haircare products and services that contain no animal ingredients…it’s a little harder to call those plant-based. The term “plant-based” is almost exclusively used in conjunction with the word “diet,” and those who eat plant-based don’t necessarily care about these type of items not containing animal products. However, you can use the “cruelty-free” label, sure – assuming your products aren’t tested on animals – but in this case, you’re selling a vegan product!
Think About Your Ideal Customer
Is your ideal customer health conscious or are they more concerned with animal welfare or the environment? Is your product for vegans or are you trying to appeal to meateaters? Maybe you’re walking the tightrope known as “flexitarian.”
Ask yourself: who am I trying to target? Once you answer this question, you will know which label to use.
If you hope to target vegans exclusively, then you should have no problem calling yourself a vegan brand or business. For instance, if you are a grocery store who only has vegan items on your shelves, chances are you’re targeting vegans more than anyone else. In this scenario, don’t shy away from marketing yourself as a vegan business! Ethical vegans aren’t worried if something is healthy and exclusively made from plants: as long as no animal products are included, label it “vegan” and they’ll be fine.
On the other hand, if you want to appeal to people who may not be as welcoming to the idea of veganism, you may want to opt for the term “plant-based.” Offering “plant-based” burgers, for example, may appear less threatening, so to speak, than “vegan” burgers to people who still consume meat.
The same goes for healthy eaters. “Plant-based” sounds natural, healthy. If someone is health-conscious, they are likely looking for unprocessed choices made from whole foods. A “vegan” product can be filled with GMOs and other “scary” stuff, whereas a “plant-based” item sounds much more wholesome.
Choose What Feels Right to You
In the end, no one knows your business better than you. If you’re comfortable with the vegan label, go for it! If you’re worried “vegan” is too off-putting, opt for plant-based. instead
Stay true to yourself and your brand – do what feels right to you.
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