Vegan labels can make people think that food won’t taste good, a study says

More and more food producers are slapping ‘vegan‘labels on their products to entice a new generation of ethical eaters.

But a new study suggests these labels may have a negative effect on how food is perceived by consumers.

Researchers in Germany It investigated consumer perceptions of products and purchasing intentions regarding vegan product labeling.

They found that people expected some products to taste worse when they saw they were labeled vegan, probably because they knew they didn’t contain milk, butter, and other tasty animal fats.

The study focused on “casual vegan products” – vegan food items by default, rather than being formulated specifically for the vegan market.

One example is Nestlé’s Shreddies, which has added an important leaf-shaped green vegan label to its packaging.

Such a label could discourage omnivores who may mistakenly believe that Shreddies has a new and less tasty “vegan” recipe.

Product labeling can have a profound impact on consumer spending habits, the researchers report. Academics seemed to be focused on “casual vegan products”: food items that are suitable for vegans but have never had any animal products. One example is Nestlé’s Shreddies, which added a major green vegan label to its packaging in 2018. Such a label could discourage people who eat animal products who may mistakenly believe that Shreddies has a new “vegan” recipe

“Our study shows that food manufacturers should be cautious about labeling food as vegan if consumers are not expecting a vegan product,” said study author Gesa Stremmel of the University of Goettingen in Germany.

“Consumers may not only perceive the product as healthier and more sustainable, but also expect it to taste worse.


Vegan labeled products can therefore be divided into two categories. First, there are products that mimic foods of animal origin. These products include, for example, meat substitutes and vegan variants of cheese and milk.

Second, there are casual vegan products, which are edible for vegans but not because their manufacturers have purposely replaced animal products.

Vegan products are casually not intentionally vegan products but are “vegan by default”. This means that the products have not undergone any special reformulation to be vegan.

Given the growing popularity of vegan products, manufacturers are tempted to add a vegan label to their randomly vegan products.

“In particular, food manufacturers serving very taste-conscious consumer segments, such as luxury food manufacturers, should therefore refrain from this labeling practice.”

In recent years, many “casual vegan” products have started putting vegan labels on their packaging, but not because manufacturers have changed the recipe to make them vegan friendly.

By definition, vegan products have casually always been vegan-friendly, but manufacturers are adding these labels to take advantage of the rise in veganism.

Shreddies, for example, began adding a green vegan label to its boxes in 2018, even though the cereal has always been vegan nonetheless.

Randomly vegan products contrast with products that mimic animal-based foods, such as plant-based burgers and trendy vegan cheeses.

For the study, the researchers worked with 432 participants with an average age of 27, all followed by various diets: omnivorous (meaning they eat both animal and plant products), vegetarian, vegan, and more.

All participants were distributed into groups and randomly assigned to one of four jar products that were labeled or unlabeled with a vegan logo.

The products were hummus, raspberry jam, chocolate spread and a cheese spread with herbs.

In general, hummus and raspberry jam are expected to be vegan by their very nature, the researchers said, while chocolate spread and cheese spread are expected to contain milk.

For the study, volunteers were given hummus, raspberry jam, chocolate spread or “herb spread” with or without the vegan label.

Volunteers were asked to evaluate the healthiness of the product, the expected taste, the sustainability and the intention of consumption.

The researchers found that a vegan label on a product that should be vegan anyway (hummus or raspberry jam) did not affect the expected taste.

However, putting a vegan label on a product that is usually considered unsuitable for vegans (chocolate spread or cheese spread) has led to “perceptual bias”.

In essence, the volunteers tended to assume that the vegan-labeled chocolate or cheese spread would not taste good, probably because a “correct” version of such a product would have to contain animal ingredients.

For example, milk is generally considered by society to be an integral ingredient in chocolate.

Overall, the study shows that manufacturers could make their products more appealing to vegans with their vegan labeling.

But this risks losing customers who eat animal products, which they may decide not to buy due to the vegan label.

Businesses may have to decide whether adding vegan labels is worth risking such a loss, bearing in mind that only around 1% of the UK population adheres to a vegan diet.

Another problem is that a vegan label can make a product seem healthier, which could fill an obesity crisis if the product is full of sugar.

“We recognize the risk of consumers being misled into unhealthy overconsumption of their respective products due to biased health and sustainability inferences caused by the vegan label,” say the authors.

The new study was published in the journal appetites.


According to a study, following a vegan diet free of meat and dairy products can weaken bones and increase the risk of painful fractures.

Researchers from the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) compared the bone health of 36 vegans and 36 non-vegans using ultrasound.

They found that the vegans tended to have worse bone health, due to an apparent shortage of key nutrients that are typically obtained from animal products.

“People are turning to a vegan diet not only out of compassion for animals and awareness of environmental concerns, but also for the health benefits,” said BfR President Andreas Hensel.

“Scientific evidence suggests that a vegan or vegetarian diet can protect against many chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease or cancer.”

“However, a vegan diet was found to be associated with lower bone mineral density, which is associated with a higher fracture risk than omnivores.”

In the studio. Researchers led by BfR food safety expert Juliane Menzel performed ultrasound measurements of the heel bone of 72 participants, aided by those who followed vegan diets and aided by those who did not.

The team found that, on average, those who followed a vegan diet had lower ultrasound values ​​and therefore worse bone health.

By taking blood and urine samples from the participants, the researchers were also able to identify 12 so-called “biomarkers” that play a role in bone maintenance.

The results revealed that, in combination, vitamins A and B6, lysine, leucine, omega-3 fatty acids, selenoprotein P, iodine, thyroid stimulating hormone, calcium, magnesium and α-Klotho protein were positively associated with good health. of the bones.

Lysine is an amino acid found in meat, fish, dairy products, eggs and some plants such as soy that the body cannot produce on its own.

Vitamin A, meanwhile, is found in eggs and dark leafy vegetables, while vitamin B6 is found in meat and fish, as well as chickpeas and some fruits.

In contrast, participants with healthier bones had lower concentrations of a hormone known as FGF23, whose main role is the regulation of plasma phosphate concentration.

Full study results were published in the journal nutrients.