Should you be calling your business “vegan” or “plant-based”?

Kandice Vincent

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Your business is technically vegan, but your product or service can likely be enjoyed equally by those who are non-vegan as well. You can label your business as vegan but risk excluding potential non-vegan traffic. Alternatively, you could call your business plant-based and miss out on that valuable niche vegan traffic.

There’s no right or wrong answer here. The term you choose should be based on multiple factors that will determine the most effective choice for your business.

What is the difference between vegan and plant-based?

The term plant-based is super trendy right now as businesses in all niches try to become more inclusive. The word “vegan” often comes with a certain exclusivity, where plant-based is more of a loose term. Vegan is plant-based, but plant-based is not vegan.

Vegan is an ethos. It’s a way of life. It involves not only eliminating animal products from your diet but also your wardrobe, your beauty cabinet, and your home goods. Someone who is plant-based might still wear leather, consume fish now and then or use conditioner containing gelatin. Plant-based refers specifically to diet. It means, as the word says, that one’s diet is based primarily on plant foods.  

With that in mind, let’s look at how you can choose whether to use the keyword “vegan” or “plant-based” to label your business.

What are you selling?

The primary factor you’ll use to choose what to call your business is what your product or service is. What are you selling? If you’re a digital marketing agency like us, you wouldn’t call yourself a plant-based marketing agency because our service is unrelated to the food itself, although we work with plant-based brands. A vegan digital marketing agency makes more logistical sense as it describes our ethos. That said, if your product is vegan sausages, then both “plant-based” and “vegan” would be acceptable terms to describe your product.

If your product is a food or beverage product, you want to be as clear as possible when choosing descriptive words. More people are becoming interested in veganism, and many others opt for vegan products because of intolerances to meat or dairy. That said, those that have intolerances or specific dietary requirements will be actively seeking this information on your labels. As long as you include the fact that it’s vegan somewhere, such as with a “vegan” trademark symbol, then you’re covering all your bases. For that reason, if your product is food-related, then “plant-based” is likely the best way to go.

On the flip side, if your product or service is unrelated to food, such as life coaching, website design or comfy chairs, then “vegan” would be a better term to use.

Who are you selling to?

Secondly, you need to get very specific about who you’re selling to. Building ideal customer personas and determining your target audience will help you choose the best term to target them. Are you targeting vegans specifically? We work with vegan businesses because they share our core values, which extend beyond just the consumption of meat. If you’re a vegan life coach, it makes sense to target vegans looking for a life coach. Vegans are more likely to want to invest in vegan services and would rather work with someone who understands their lifestyle. Vegans supporting vegans!

But using “vegan” as the primary describer of your business could imply that your product is only meant for vegans. Which may not, and is likely not the case. Plant-based sounds more inviting to those who are non-vegans. For example, if you have a vegan jerky and are trying to target curious meat-eaters, you’ll have better luck using “plant-based” than if you use “vegan”.

Where are you selling your product or service?

You will also need to consider where you are selling your product or service and what type of clientele that will attract. This includes the location where your product or service is available and where people can purchase.

If you’re selling via your own online store, then you can target whoever you want with your SEO and marketing. If you’re selling through an online marketplace, your product will attract different eyes based on the marketing and SEO of the marketplace. You might be selling your product in-stores, in which case you need to think about the other products that the store has and what type of market that may appeal to.

Where is your product available? Does it ship worldwide, or is it only available in certain places? The UK is the most popular country for veganism in the world. If you’re selling your product or service there, calling your business “vegan” will likely be very effective. Alternatively, if you’re a vegan brand selling to France, one of the world’s least vegan-friendly countries, using plant-based may be the more practical option.

Even if your product or service is available worldwide, or if you’re selling a digital service, you’ll likely still be geotargeting with your marketing and ads. So use data on the locations and marketplaces that you’re targeting to ensure you choose the best term to describe your business.

What to avoid

Whether you choose to call your business “vegan” or “plant-based”, you can achieve success with your efforts, but there are some terms that you should avoid. It might be a psychological response, but using _____-free has been proven to deter potential customers, such as calling your business meat-free. It implies that your product is lacking in some way since you’re excluding something. Sainsbury’s tested this theory in 2017 with their own brand of alternative sausage. It started with the name meat-free sausage, and once they changed the name to Cumberland-spiced veggie sausage, they saw a boost in sales of 76%. Saying your product is meat-free will instantly deter meat-eaters, which is not the goal. We want meat-eaters to jump on board and try out your product or service!

Do you have to stick to one label for your business?

Technically, you can call your business both plant-based and vegan if you want, but you’re better off picking one and sticking to it. Building up your reputation online takes time, and if you keep switching between terms, your SEO will suffer. Using the factors above, you can work out which will be the most effective for the success of your business.

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