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Survey: No food word is less appealing than “vegan”

Illustration for article titled Survey: No food word is less appealing than “vegan”em/em
Photo: Tang Ming Tung (Getty Images)

Of all the words and phrases food companies use to promote the health or dietary benefits of their wares—sugar-free, low-calorie, diet, low-calorie—none is more of a turnoff than the word “vegan.” That’s according to a study of 2,200 American adults conducted by Morning Consult, which found that 35 percent said the word “vegan” made a food package less appealing, the highest of any phrase or word presented.

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“Diet” came in a close second, with 31 percent of respondents saying that made food less appealing, followed by “sugar-free.” It’s easy to see why those two are unappetizing: they indicate that something is lacking or missing from a food. But vegan? Vegan could theoretically be used on a label for foods that are already naturally vegan. Do vegan, gluten-free tortilla chips sound less appealing than regular tortilla chips, even if they’re the same thing? The survey seems to say they do.

But there’s a potential work-around for food companies trying to appeal to vegan consumers while not alienating meat-eaters. Other surveys indicate “plant-based” sounds more appealing than “vegan,” conveying more freedom of choice and less restriction. So, food companies, you have your marching orders: Ditch the v-word and get down with #plantbasedlife.

Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

It’s easy to see why those two are unappetizing: they indicate that something is lacking or missing from a food. But vegan?

at least on my part, it’s probably because stuff proudly labeled “vegan” is usually a horrid attempt to replace something containing animal products. “Vegan” mayonnaise, “vegan” cheese, “vegan” “sausages.” so when I see a package labeled “vegan” I pretty much assume:

1) the contents bear only a slight resemblance to what they’re claimed to be, and

2) the contents will at best be bland, at worst be disgusting.

there are exceptions of course, you can DIY things which pass muster (is there anything the Serious Eats crew can’t do?) but you’re not likely to find anything that good pre-made.

for something like your tortilla chip example, a possible solution could just be to include somewhere in the nutritional info label area “contains no animal products nor manufactured on equipment used for animal products.”