- Tyme, a New York City-based food startup, is marketing itself as a healthy fast food alternative, according to Fortune. All but one of their meals are vegan, but company founders don’t advertise them that way.
- While many consumers are trying to eat more healthfully, strict vegans and vegetarians make up only around 2% of the population, according to the NPD Group. Revenues for products labeled vegetarian or vegan have remained relatively flat in the last year, according to Nielsen.
- Naming a product vegan or vegetarian is considered risky. Many consumers view the label as a sign the product doesn’t taste very good, NPD Group food and beverage analyst Darren Seifer told Fortune.
Despite consumers trend toward healthier ingredients, "vegan" is still a dirty word. It would appear that people want to eat more fruits and vegetables, but they don’t want to knowingly do so at the expense of meat and dairy. Simply put, consumers think vegan food tastes bad.
The popular term "plant-based" has become a substitute for "vegan" in recent years. From 2012 to 2016, plant-based product claims in the U.S. grew at a CAGR of 35.8%, with 220 related product launches in 2016 and 320 in 2015, according to HealthFocus. If consumers can look at a plant-based label claim and think a product will taste good, this segment could continue to grow.
Some products have overcome the odds and succeeded at branding their food as vegan. Vegenaise, an eggless mayonnaise produced by Follow Your Heart, is one example. Founded as a little California health food store, Follow Your Heart is now a global natural-foods brand, raking in $50 million in sales last year. Its flagship product, Vegenaise, is now sold in 23 countries and is considered a pioneer in the vegan industry.
However, some brands prefer to avoid the term vegan at all costs. Hampton Creek makes an eggless mayonnaise similar to Vegenaise, but they call it "Just Mayo," and had to fight federal regulators to be able to use that name. Beyond Meat is also striving to get their products moved from the refrigerated meat substitute section of the supermarket and placed behind the meat counter.
While the word "vegan" can summon images of flavorless high fiber mush, the innovation in meatless and dairy-free food products continues to grow. The key for new products seems to be to focus on promoting a produce heavy ingredient list, and avoiding the label "vegan" at all costs.