Vegan vs Plant-Based.  What’s the difference?

Over recent years, the vegan movement has thrived and the number of vegan products available has become increasingly popular as consumers choose more ethical buying practices.

However, another term has also seen a rise in popularity – ‘plant-based.’ So, what do these terms actually mean and how do they differ?

In 1994, the Vegan Society was founded and those founders also coined the term ‘vegan’. 

Veganism is defined asa philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

The term ‘plant-based’, which is usually only associated with dietary purposes, has seen conflicting definitions from published research to The Cambridge Dictionary but can be traced back to Thomas Colin Campbell in 1980.  

The Plant Based Foods Association defines plant-based as “a finished product consisting of ingredients derived from plants that include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and/or legumes (peas, beans, pulses, etc.). Additionally, fungi and algae, although not technically plants, will also be counted towards the percentage of plant-based ingredients.

So, what is the main difference here? The ‘vegan’ means the exclusion of all animal products, including in the manufacturing and development of a product. Whereas the term ‘plant-based’ focuses on just the ingredients present in the final product.

And since there’s no legal definition of either of these words, which term do consumers prefer?

Survey says….

In 2020, The Vegan Society commissioned research in the U.K. 1 Attest consumer survey for The Vegan Society – (‘Food labeling’) of 1,000 GB adults – conducted 2-3 September 2020 with our partner Attest to find out.

The results found that:

  • 64.1% of the public believe that the term ‘plant-based’ means the product contains absolutely no animal products (i.e. vegan)
  • 26.9% of the public believe that the term ‘plant-based’ means the product may contain small amounts of milk and/or eggs
  • 52.8% of the public prefer the term ‘vegan’, and 47.2% prefer the term ‘plant-based’ on product labels.
  • Perhaps unsurprising, vegans felt most strongly about the term – with 71.2% of those questioned favouring ‘vegan’

Since the term ‘plant-based’ can mean that animal products could be used somewhere in the manufacturing and development of the product, even if not present in the final product itself, it could be misleading to consumers. So how do we avoid confusing shoppers and provide product claims that can easily satisfy all terminology preferences AND ensure consumer confidence?

Simple, with 79% of consumers wanting more 3rd party verification of product claims, the Vegan Trademark, regulated by the Vegan Society, is here to help.

The Vegan Trademark

The Vegan Trademark is the first labeling scheme of its kind and has been helping consumers easily identify vegan products for over 30 years. As the most recognised vegan certification scheme globally 2 Attest consumer survey for The Vegan Society – (‘Consumer Purchasing Habits’) of 1000 UK adults and 1000 USA adults – conducted between 22 February and 3 March 2021 (online) , we help to bolster brands’ vegan claims and provide consumers with the confidence that they have met the highest of vegan standards over self-proclaimed products.

Look out for the Vegan Trademark on over 58,000 products worldwide, including cosmetics, clothing, food, drink, household items, and many more!

Our expert and experienced vegan team handle all certifications in house, against our robust yet achievable standards:

  • The manufacture and/or development of the product, and its ingredients, must not involve or have involved the use of any animal product, by-product or derivative.
  • The products submitted for registration do not and have not involved testing of any sort on animals* (including for efficacy, toxicity, safety, cosmetic purposes etc.) conducted at the initiative of the company or on its behalf, or by parties over whom they have effective control.
  • That the company strives diligently to minimize cross-contamination from animal* substances used in other (non vegan) products as far as is reasonably practicable and possible.
Plant Based Diet

Our Vegan Trademark Holders have access to exclusive monthly live webinars to help make the most of their registration, a support network of partners that we have specifically chosen to help our Trademark Holders grow and where possible, support from our small but dedicated marketing team.

Start your vegan verification journey today and get in touch to speak to a member of our team through RangeMe Services here.

*The Vegan Society understands the word ‘animal’ to refer to the entire Animal Kingdom, that is all vertebrates and all multi-cellular invertebrates.

Hi there 👋
Want the inside scoop on all things CPG?

Get the latest CPG and retail insights, trends, and business best practices sent directly to your inbox, every week.