The labels on food packaging and descriptions on menus can influence a consumer’s preferences. For instance, consumers seem to prefer plant-based items over vegan or vegetarian ones. As more companies start to offer meatless options, they will have to consider how they are labeling their food.
What Consumers Want
A study from DuPont Nutrition & Health, which included 1,000 U.S. consumers, revealed that 52% are eating more plant-based foods. On a global scale, the study found that 65% of consumers are turning to plant-based options.
It is important to note that 60% of the survey respondents said this was a permanent change in their eating habits. Although they felt that switching to plant-based food was a healthier decision, they admitted that taste was a top barrier to eating more plant-based products.
Taste appears to be one of the main reasons why more people have not switched to meatless diets. A Technomic report found that only 27% of consumers who eat vegetarian or vegan dishes believe restaurants “do a good job of providing options that taste good.”
Why Labels Matter
Brands are responding to the shift toward plant-based food, but how they label their products can influence consumers’ decisions to purchase them. Research from Technomic showed that 58% of consumers would rather buy plant-based foods. Only 49% would purchase vegetarian, and 43% would buy vegan. Consumers also think that vegan and vegetarian foods do not taste as good as plant-based ones.
Consumers seem to have negative connotations for the vegan and vegetarian terms. They may associate the words with restricted, bland diets that are boring. They may also view them as fad diets that are difficult to follow and will leave them hungry at the end of the meal.
“I think vegan and vegetarian have been put into consumers’ minds as taking away from a diet … but maybe, plant-based almost gives you something: You’re getting more plants, more nutrients. And along with the interest in protein — that’s consumers’ No. 1 nutrient they look for on menus — plant-based still gives you that protein component as well,” Clare Aigner, manager of syndicated research at Technomic, told Restaurant Business.
The term “vegan” increased by 87% on menus during the last year, according to Datassential’s MenuTrends. In addition, plant-based sales are on the rise as companies offer more variety and experiment with different options. Considering the competitiveness of this trend, brands will have to pay close attention to how they label their products and menus.