Consumers surveyed on terms like “100% plant-based”, “meatless” and “vegan”

New reports reveal best ways to label plant-based products

30-Nov-2022 - Germany

Two new reports published today by global food awareness organisation, ProVeg International, provide insights into the most effective ways to label plant-based products.

Photo by Cocobols on Unsplash

The two reports are called “Plant-based labelling: How common labelling language impacts consumer perception of plant-based products” and “‘Plant-based’ vs ‘vegan’: understanding consumer perceptions of food-labelling terms.” 

Based on consumer surveys, the reports give valuable insights into how the food industry can label their products to ensure clarity about ingredients, draw in target consumers and present their products in the most appealing way.

“With the plant-based food industry experiencing huge growth, there are now many products on the shelves to meet consumer demands. But this means that targeting consumers with the right labelling has become more important than ever,” Stephanie Jaczniakowska-McGirr, Director of Corporate Engagement at ProVeg, said.

“These reports provide companies with insights that will help them more precisely hone in on their customer base with the right words for the right products,” she said.

In the first report on the impact of common labelling language, 1,000 consumers in the UK were asked in July 2022 to describe and rate their views on the terms ‘animal-free’, ‘meatless’, ‘meat-free’, ‘100% plant-based’, ‘plant-based’, ‘veggie’, ‘vegan’ and ‘vegetarian’. 

The survey came up with the following key findings:

  • Consumers were most likely to choose a plant-based product with the label ‘100% plant-based’, ‘plant-based’ or ‘veggie’, whereas ‘meatless’ and ‘vegan’ were the least preferred labels. 
  • Labels most likely to be perceived as being good for the animals and eco-friendly were ‘animal-free’, ‘vegan’ and ‘vegetarian’. 
  • ‘Animal-free’ and ‘veggie’ sounded like the most enjoyable and tasty options, according to the survey respondents, while ‘100% plant-based’, ‘vegetarian’ and ‘vegan’ were seen as healthy, safe, and nutritious. Consumers rated the labels  ‘veggie’ and ‘vegetarian’ as the most affordable and easy to access. 
  • Consumers told ProVeg they were not confused by plant-based food products labelled as ‘nuggets’. Only 3.6% of respondents said they had previously chosen a plant-based product referring to ‘nuggets’ by accident, while 96.4% agreed that they had chosen the product consciously. 
  •  Over 80% of consumers said that it is obvious that products labelled as ‘vegan’, ‘vegetarian’ and ‘plant-based’ do not contain meat and 76% stated that the labels helped them to understand and identify the nature of the product. 

“It’s great to see that consumers are in fact not confused by ‘meaty terms’ such as ‘nugget’. Our hope is that these results will contribute towards creating a favourable regulatory and labelling landscape for plant-based products, particularly at a time when we’re seeing uncertainty around such topics in Europe,” Jaczniakowska-McGirr said. 

“It’s really interesting to see that consumers prefer ‘plant-based’ labels to ‘meat-free’ or ‘vegan’ terminology. These results echo many brands current labelling strategies, with the use of ‘plant-based’ labels becoming very common, particularly in the UK, where this survey was conducted.” 

The second report on understanding consumer perception draws on the results of an online survey conducted in October 2021 to establish the level of consumers’ understanding of the terms used to describe food products in the UK as well as in the US. 

The key findings from that survey are as follows:

  • The majority of respondents had an excellent understanding of the term ‘vegan’, with 69.4% of UK consumers and 61.3% of US consumers choosing the correct definition and saying that they thought these food products do not contain any meat, dairy or eggs. Even so, more clarification and education is needed around the term. ProVeg highly recommends highlighting the exclusion of dairy/eggs from these products. 
  • About half of the consumers surveyed (50.3% in the UK and 49.2% in the US) understood the term ‘plant-based’ correctly. Some consumers (17% in the UK and 26.1% in the US) were confused about whether ‘plant-based’ food products contain dairy/eggs. The same went for the term ‘vegetarian’.
  • Whilst 72.6% of consumers in the UK and 75.4% of consumers in the US understood that a ‘dairy-free’ food product does not contain any dairy, the term still left consumers unclear about the product’s meat content. 
  • In the same way, whilst 74.9% of UK consumers and 76.8% of US consumers understood that a ‘meat-free’/‘meatless’ food product does not contain any meat, the dairy/egg content of the product remains unclear.

“This report offers insights into consumer knowledge around plant-based terminology in the UK and the US, with a deep dive into the way different dietary groups understand key terms,” Jaczniakowska-McGirr said.

“Such research is critical to help brands effectively target the growing number of flexitarian consumers and understand the best terminology to use on their products to ensure consumers know exactly what they are purchasing.”

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