Should Vegetarian Products Be Allowed Meat-Related Names?

( Ingredient Communications )

One in four consumers believes vegetarian products should not be allowed to have meat-related names like sausage or burger, a survey has found. 

Polling experts Surveygoo explored attitudes about the naming of meat-free products. Nearly 1,000 consumers were surveyed from the UK and the U.S., including vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians and meat-eaters.

Across all groups, 25% of respondents said manufacturers of vegetarian products should not be permitted to use meat-related names like sausage, burger or steak, according to a release by Ingredient Communications. 
Vegetarians were the least likely to disapprove of meat-related names, with only 18% supporting a ban. By contrast, 33% of vegans and 26% of meat-eaters said vegetarian products should not be allowed to have meat-related names.

“It’s no secret that many in the meat industry want to stop what they see as the misrepresentation of vegetarian products,” says Richard Clarke, Managing Director of Ingredient Communications. “What is perhaps surprising is that so many consumers also seem to support a ban. With interest in plant-based diets increasing, and a backlash from the meat industry under way, it is time for a debate about the way vegetarian and vegan products are presented.”

There’s a significant divide between vegetarians and vegans when it came to purchasing decisions, according to the survey. Nearly half of the vegetarians surveyed (49%) said they were more likely to buy a meat-free product if it was labeled with a word such as sausage, burger or steak. However, only 19% of vegans said the same, with 57% saying they were less likely to buy a product if it carried a meat-related name.

“Vegetarians seem to prefer products that mimic traditional meat formats, but this is a turn-off for many vegans,” says Neil Cary, managing director of Surveygoo. 

This is an important lesson for manufacturers and marketers of plant-based products – vegetarians and vegans are distinct consumer categories, with vastly different purchasing preferences, Cary adds.

The presentation of meat-free products is a political issue in both Europe and the US. In 2017, the European Court of Justice prohibited dairy product names for non-dairy products, such as milk. Last year, France passed legislation prohibiting vegetarian products from being labeled in the same way as traditional animal products. In Missouri, “misrepresenting a product as meat” if it did not derive from livestock or poultry is prohibited.

So, what did survey respondents think we should call vegetarian products if meat-related names are banned? The top name for sausages was “rolls,” the top name for burgers was “patties,” and the most popular name for vegetarian steaks was “portions.”

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