'Vegan’ label puts off diners - including vegans

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

It's all in a name: Even vegans don't like the word 'vegan' (Credit: Getty/ Tara Moore)
It's all in a name: Even vegans don't like the word 'vegan' (Credit: Getty/ Tara Moore)

Related tags Food Gastropub Social responsibility

Labelling food as ‘plant-based’ and ‘vegan’ is putting pub-goers, including vegans, off ordering greener options.

Almost half (45%) of UK consumers would order more meat-free food if the ingredients were listed instead of being pigeonholed as ‘vegan’ or ‘plant-based’, the research commissioned by food challenger brand Julienne Bruno revealed.

This held true for two fifths (42%) of meat eaters, as well as more than half (55%) of pescatarians and vegans, out of the 2,007 adults surveyed.

What’s more, the research showed ‘plant-based’ has become more deterrent than the term ‘vegan’, with two in five (37%) of diners now disliking the term versus just under a third (32%) for ‘vegan’.

However, despite reports of retailers consolidating ranges, three quarters (74%) do not think the plant-based boom is over with half (45%) admitting they thought it had just become more mainstream.

This follows recent research by The Morning Advertiser (The MA),​ which showed the demand for meat-free dishes to still be strong across the pub sector.

Sustainable dining

Out of 349 respondents to The MA’s​ survey,​​ more than three quarters (78%) of operators said the consumer demand for meat-free dishes was not declining, while less than a quarter (22%) said that it was.

With the Climate Change Committee, an independent body advising the UK government, recommending a 20% reduction in meat and dairy consumption by 2030, two fifths (39%) of UK adults want more planet friendly food when dining out, including a third (33%) of meat eaters and almost two thirds (63%) of pescatarians.

However, taste and quality are still important as one in three (33%) meat eaters and pescatarians are getting up and leaving restaurants if there are no plant-based options that are good enough.

When it comes to ordering sustainably, two in five (42%) want restaurant menus to show brands on their menus. More than a quarter (28%) would order greener options if a brand is featured, particularly Gen Z (41%), with two fifths (39%) of diners having more trust in quality when they see the brand of produce being served.

Julienne Bruno founder Axel Katalan said being labelled as plant-based wasn't a unique selling point.

Good quality dishes

He added: “The research indicates diners want their food to be original, taste good and offer quality produce​ regardless of whether it’s vegan and along with including trusted brand items on menus, this could be key to getting more diners to eat more sustainably very easily.

“With vegans even being put off vegan labelling. it’s time for a shift in how we talk about and label food.”

Kumour Uddin, the head of food at East-Anglia based business Anglian Country Inns recently commented on trends the business was seeing in terms of plant-based dishes.

While he hadn’t noticed a spike in guests opting for plant-based options, he said demand for vegan dishes was “still very strong” and had grown in line with the business’ overall sales.

The situation is similar at Southern operator Brucan Pubs.​​ James Lyon-Shaw, the pub group’s director, said sales data showed demand for meat-free dishes had stayed fairly consistent, after a strong increase last year.

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