For most people when they see the term ‘vegan’, or ‘vegetarian’ labeled on some foods, they instantly become turned off.
Those v-words don’t seem to appeal to the market due to unappetizing or polarizing associations.
The trendier sounding ‘plant-based’ may appeal to a broader market, since ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’ could alienate those who don’t adhere strictly to those diets.
‘Plant-based’ may also distance products from a perception of vegan and vegetarian food as bland.
Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Food Association says the word ‘vegan’ can be associated with deprivation, while ‘plant-based’ has more positive connotation because it explains what is in a food.
The terms vegan, vegetarian and plant-based are not specifically regulated. But vegetarian typically means meatless, while vegan means no animal ingredients at all, including milk or eggs.
When referring to a specific food or product, “plant-based” usually means the stricter vegan definition, though that may not always be clear. When referring to broader eating habits, it usually means a diet focused on vegetables but may also include meat or fish. That lack of clarity is why the Plant-Based Foods Association plans to develop a definition for the term.
However, Simon notes that there’s still room in the market for both terms, as many companies still proudly use ‘vegan’.
In the end, it’s all about consumer preferences.