Why the Word Vegan is More Powerful Than Ever
VegNews co-founder Colleen Holland explores why companies are clamoring to position themselves as vegan.
It wasn’t long ago that the word "vegan" evoked images of emaciated hippies, angry activists, and starving dumpster divers in the mainstream lexicon. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a lean physique, being passionate about a cause, and saving perfectly good food from going to waste, but in the past five years, something has changed. Perhaps the shift occurred when Ellen DeGeneres announced to the world that she was thriving on a vegan diet, or when the pro-veg film Forks Over Knives swept the nation with its sound science and promise that diseases like diabetes and obesity could be cured with a plant-based diet. Or was it the CNN interview with Bill Clinton where he extols the virtues of living without meat and dairy, the exposure to delectable vegan food through the hundreds of meat-free cookbooks now published every year, or the constant barrage of undercover factory-farm footage on major television networks? However the change took place, the perception of veganism is more positive than ever before, and everyone from Anderson Cooper to Arian Foster are talking about it. It is nearly impossible to deny that veganism’s moment has arrived.
According to the latest “how many vegetarians are there?” poll by the Vegetarian Resource Group, roughly 7.5 percent of the population identifies as either vegan or vegetarian, and an astonishing 33 percent eat “mostly veg.” Combine that with the millions more allured by the health benefits of ditching dairy and beef for almond milk and veggie burgers—not to mention the unprecendented 12-percent nose dive in meat consumption over the past five years—and we’ve got ourselves a little vegetarian revolution.
The Power of Vegan
Remember that scary word, vegan? For years, marketers were told to stay clear of using it on product packaging and promotion. It was seen as a turn-off to consumers, and a surefire way to get buyers not to buy a product. But now that it’s 2012, and vegan everything practically grows on trees, I wanted to find out just how far we’ve come. Are companies finally embracing the once-forbidden label? For Seth Tibbott, founder of Turtle Island Foods (a 32-year-old vegan company that makes veggie dogs, sausages, deli slices, and the famous Tofurky), the answer is an emphatic “yes.” He says, “We showcase the term 'vegan' as a major point of differentiation from our main competitors. This makes it easier on current vegans, interesting to meat reducers, and intriguing for others.” Earth Balance, an all-vegan food company that produces everything from butter spreads and soymilk to nut butters and mayonnaise, has prominently marketed its products as vegan since the company’s inception in 1998. Marketing Manager Adriane Little emphasizes the importance of communicating this message to consumers as “a way to show that a vegan diet should not be restrictive, but the opposite—a lifestyle filled with good-tasting, good-for-you options.”
But what about non-vegetarian companies? Have they recognized the benefits of marketing their brands as vegan? In my own analysis (spending a day at a natural-food store photographing any product that used the word vegan on its packaging), never before have I seen such a broad use of the once-taboo term. The word is splashed across boxes of Boca burgers (now owned by Kraft); popular pasta-sauce purveyor Victoria Fine Foods has launched an all-vegan line called Victoria Vegan; and Dr. Praeger’s—whose product line also includes seafood—doesn’t hold back when touting vegan on the front of its packaging. Combine this trend with such recent news as Subway testing vegan sandwiches in Washington, DC stores and McDonald’s opening its first all-vegetarian restaurant in India, and it’s just a matter of time, I believe, before major food brands embrace the word vegan to represent health, sustainability, and authenticity. For vegans, these values are nothing new, and according to Tibbott, we’re just ahead of the curve. “Vegans are ahead of their time in terms of eating a diet that we feel will be adopted by more and more people in the coming years. By living their values, they inspire others to consider dietary changes.” I couldn’t agree more.
To see an array of products currently marketed as vegan, check out Colleen Holland’s Vegan Food Slide Show. Thank you to Staff of Life in Santa Cruz, CA for allowing VegNews to shoot the photography for this piece.
Want to hear more from VN's Colleen Holland? Follow her on Facebook here! Other stories by Colleen include:
- Colleen Holland: How I Became a Healthy Vegan
- The Easiest, Best Almond Milk Ever
- Colleen Holland's Top 10 Healthy Products at Expo West
- Colleen Holland's 15 Most-Anticipated Vegan Cookbooks of 2013
- 9 Reasons Why Los Angeles is the Center of the (Vegan) Universe
- Interview with The Cooking Channel's Jason Wrobel
- Colleen Holland's Top 10 Healthy Products at Expo East
- Colleen Holland's Top 12 Vegan Meals
- Interview with Health Pioneer Patricia Bragg
- The Vegan King of Salt Lake City
- The New Raw Food Diet
- Interview with Real Food Daily's Ann Gentry
- Vegan in Mendocino: The Stanford Inn
- Interview with Sweet & Sara's Sara Sohn
- Interview with Vegan Baking Queen Fran Costigan
New Study Shows Animal-Proteins Deadly Effects
Research reveals that eating high amounts of animal-based protein could lead to cancer, diabetes, and high mortality rates.
Read More »
Arizona Voters Oppose Weaker Animal-Cruelty Laws
Citizens of the Southwest state believe that animals raised for food should be offered the same level of protection as domestic animals.
Read More »
Oscar Pic Raises $3 Million for Animal-Welfare Organization
Ellen uses her star power to raise millions for the Humane Society of the United States.
Read More »
Vegan Arm-Wrestler Competes on AMC Reality Show
Rob Bigwood shows the world that you dont need to eat meat to out-muscle the competition.
Read More »
Idaho Gov. Accepts Dairy Money to Pass Ag-Gag Bill
Thousands of dollars from the dairy industry have been donated to state politicians who recently outlawed factory farm investigations.
Read More »
- Thousands of People Protest Idaho Ag-Gag Bill
- Chipotles Vegan Sofritas to Be Served in Boston
- Time Touts Seven Health Benefits of Meat-Free Diet
- Major Tobacco Company Stops Testing On Animals
- Asias Richest Businessman Invests in Beyond Eggs
- NIU Students Cause Exotic Animal Circus to Cancel
- NYT Article Highlights Cruel Pig Farm Practices
- A Guide to Vegan Sweeteners
- Bobsled Champion Discusses Veganisms Benefits
- Paul Wesley Protests Gestation Crates in Letter
- USDA Issues Recall of 9 Million Pounds of Meat
- Grocery Retailer Tracks Gestation Crate Phase Out
- Cockfighting Crackdown: Largest in NY History
- Food Network Host Talks About Beyond Meats Merits
- Blaze Kills Nearly 300,000 Factory Farm Chickens
- Vegetarian Restaurant Opens in Detroit Art Museum
- Los Angeles Vegan Soup Company Makes Headlines
- Dallas First Vegan Dessert Food Truck to Open
- Raw Restaurant and Elixir Bar to Open in Denver
- Vegan Food to Be Served at this Years Super Bowl